Fillets of Plaice
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Durrell's hilarious and warm My Family and Other Animals (1957) began a trio of reminiscences of his life growing up with a slightly dotty family the overbearing and omniscient Larry; the affectionate and loving siblings, Margot and Leslie; and, of course, the overburdened and patient Mother on the island of Corfu in the 1930s, when a pound could buy a villa and life was conducted as a series of riotously high (and sometimes low) adventures. But what shines through these five vignettes is the author's engagement with and immense affection for animals in all their forms. From fish to fowl, from lizards to little water fleas (daphnia), Durrell's eye is acute and his prose is tart. You can read this book for the humor alone (for he did perceive his family as some rare and rarefied species), but between the lines you can discern the makings of a world-class naturalist and a cultivated and engaging writer.
under his shaggy eyebrows his tiny blue eyes stared out, brilliant as periwinkles, through his gold-rimmed spectacles. He moved with a sort of ponderous slowness rather like a lazy seal. He came forward and gave a little bow. ‘Madam,’ he said, and his voice had the rich accents of Somerset, ‘Madam, your servant.’ The Tyrolean hat looked rather alarmed at being addressed in this fashion. ‘Oh, er. . . ., good day,’ she said. ‘What may I get you?’ inquired Mr Bellow. ‘Well, actually, I came to
jetty. It was quite obvious that it was going to go straight past. Spiro, I thought, couldn’t have given the right instructions. I jumped up and down on the end of the jetty and waved my arms and shouted, and eventually I attracted the attention of the man in the boat. In a leisurely fashion he turned the benzina’s nose in and brought it up to the jetty, flung his anchor over the back and let the nose of the boat bump gently against the woodwork. ‘Good morning,’ I said, ‘are you Taki?’ He was
stuff here.’ We had a couple of glasses of port and the Colonel lit up a fine thin cheroot. When we had finished the port and he had stubbed his cheroot out, he screwed his monocle more firmly in his eye and looked at me. ‘What about going upstairs for a little game?’ he asked. ‘Um . . ., what sort of game?’ I inquired cautiously, feeling that this was the moment when, if he was going to, he would start making advances. ‘Power game,’ said the Colonel. ‘Battle of wits. Models. You like that
arrived. She was a young and pretty woman, inclined to plumpness and had a great placidity of nature. She had been whisked by Standish from some obscure place like Surbiton or Penge and had been plonked down in the middle of Mamfe. She had only been there six months but so gentle and sweet was her nature that she accepted everything and everybody with such calmness and good nature that you felt that if you had a raging headache and she placed one of her plump little hands on your forehead, it
There was Sven, who looked like a great, moon-faced baby with his almost bald head and his tattered wispy fringe of grey hair, clasping his precious accordion – an instrument without which he never travelled. There was Theodore, immaculately clad in a suit, with a Panama hat, his beard and moustache twinkling golden in the sun. Beside his chair he had his cane with a little net on the end of it and his box containing his precious test tubes and bottles for collecting. There was Donald, who looked