GERALD DURRELL by Douglas Botting


The Authorized Biography
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A portly, respectful biography of the late British conservationist, author, and raconteur. Like his better-known brother, the novelist and travel essayist Lawrence Durrell, Gerald Durrell (1925—95) was born in India and lived in England only under protest: “That mean, shabby little island wrung my guts out of me and tried to destroy anything singular and unique in me,” wrote Lawrence bitterly, and Gerald was inclined to agree. Although he would regard England as his home for most of his life, Gerald Durrell spent as much time as he could away from the island, traveling widely around the world in pursuit of his zoological interests and exploring deserts, savannas, mountains, and jungles far afield. Botting (One Chilly Siberian Morning, 1967) provides a thoroughly documented account of Durrell’s itinerary, charting his development from amateur to professional naturalist whose books, such as My Family and Other Animals, were once widely read. Botting does an especially good job of addressing Durrell’s many contributions to wildlife conservation; among other things, Durrell founded the Jersey Zoo, which helped protect dozens of endangered species, and he advised many governments on programs to protect indigenous animals. For these contributions alone, Botting suggests, Durrell deserves to be remembered today—even while divorcing him, Durrell’s wife was moved to remark, “As a champion of the animal world and a pioneer of animal conservation he was one of the great men of our age, and his immense contribution to the cause is only now beginning to sink in.” But Botting avoids hagiography, and he does offer a capable accounting of other aspects of Durrell’s life as a writer, lecturer, sometime celebrity, and bon vivant. The result is a solid, engaging biography that will appeal to Durrell’s admirers—and perhaps, with good cause, earn him a few more. (24 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7867-0655-4
Page count: 656pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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