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Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography Hardcover – 15 Mar 1999

16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (15 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000255660X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002556606
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 5.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 628,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Although his work is not widely read today, Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was among the world's most popular naturalists in the 1950s and early 60s. He travelled to then-remote places such as Siberia, Cameroon, Tierra del Fuego and Mauritius in search of odd zoological specimens and reported his travels in books like The Whispering Land and My Family and Other Animals. In the first full-length biography devoted to Durrell, Douglas Botting writes of his passage from gifted child amateur to scientifically trained professional. That passage was inspired in part by Gerald's older (and more famous) brother, the novelist and memoirist Lawrence Durrell, who gave Gerald a copy of Jean-Henri Fabre's classic Insect Life: Souvenirs of a Naturalist and encouraged his younger brother to follow his dream of living and working in the wild. Gerald Durrell, as Botting shows, went on to make signal contributions as a conservationist who founded the Jersey Zoo and other organisations devoted to protecting endangered species by breeding them in captivity and then reintroducing them into their native habitats. (Among those species were the Siberian ferret, highland gorilla, snow leopard, bespectacled bear and golden lion tamarin.) Botting's well-written biography will be of interest not only to admirers of Durrell's work but also to students of the environmentalist and conservationist movements. --Gregory McNamee,

From the Back Cover

Gerald Durrell was a world-famous naturalist and popular author who wrote, in all, some 37 books including the bestselling 'My Family and Other Animals'. His other books include 'Birds, Beasts and Relatives', 'The Bafut Beagles' and 'A Zoo in My Luggage'.

Above all, he paved the way in print for the popular presentation of the natural world on television and presented 12 series himself – the early ones, of his own expeditions. Sir David Attenborough has said: ‘He was responsible for changing peoples attitudes to zoology and changing their agenda. He showed them small animals could be as interesting as apes and elephants… He was a pioneer with a marvellous sense of humour.’

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Mar. 2000
Format: Paperback
This book captures the essence of Gerald Durrell. He was a passionate conservationist and writer, founder of Jersey Zoo, and had a wicked sense of humour. The public Durrell was enthusiastic and an inspiration to many, behind the scenes there were flaws, but these are sensitively presented by Douglas Botting. The author only met Gerald Durrell once, but was given access to private papers, letters and other unpublished material. Through Gerry's own writing, and comment from members of the famous 'My Family', as well as from his first wife Jacquie, second wife Lee, and colleagues and friends, we learn more of Gerry's childhood, his romantic liaisons, and passion for alcohol (just like the Fon of Bafut who Gerry made famous in his books about animal collecting in Cameroon). Gerry's own words speak out from this biography, with many quotes, and Durrell fans will enjoy revisiting his colourful descriptions of expeditions around the globe. This biography proves Gerry Durrell was larger than life, but there was a personal price to pay. The book clearly talks about the more problematic times in Gerry's life, but we are still left with a sense of wonder at the man and admiration for all he achieved.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 April 2000
Format: Paperback
I've been a lifelong fan of Gerald Durrell and his tireless works, both as a naturalist and as an author. I was greatly saddened by his death, and it is perhaps a loss that many others have felt.That this biography has been allowed access to personal memoirs, and drafts of his never-written autobiography, reflects a side of Durrell never seen in the slightly hazy good-natured narcisstic reflection that is his style of autobiography, or in his media appearances. In many cases, a 'truthful' biography lessens the opinion of the subject - often a shining reputation is tarnished as skeletons are found in well hidden closets. In this case, for me at least, my opinion - and understanding - of him has increased, for as well as the adventurer and animal lover, one finally sees Durrell the human-being.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the humour which showed through in the extracts of the personal letters written by Durrell even in times of severe adversity - a lesser man would have given up his ambitions in early life.
It was also great to see how one man could influence so many old fashioned attitudes in the 'Victorian' zoos around the world.
The sad ending to Durrell's life made me draw comparisons with John Aspinall who also suffered in later life, but likewise achieved great things for conservation without any formal zoology training.
A very moving story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "Belgo Geordie" on 13 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Now at 10 I wanted to be Gerald Durrell. OK blame it on afternoons in school reading "My Family and other Animals" and thinking why could I not have been born into a family so eccentricaly dysfunctional and live on Corfu to boot! Let me be clear, I had no idea where Corfu was. Had seen the sea (North) mabbe enough times to count on one hand but my older brother John was a dead ringer for Lawrence (except he couldn't write) and I longed to be anywhere other than drab suet pudding island, with a childhood other than my own. I continued to read Durrell (the animal collecting years) and then in later times the other Durrell (Alexandria Quartet) took over as more interesting and Gerald fell away as a bit of a penny pot boiler of animal stories where similar stories were rehashed to make money for worthy causes. So, as when you turn a certain age and revisit golden sands (or in my case golden grains of sands) of childhood, I was curious to know what became of Gerald the writer/man. I knew he had the Jersey Zoo, was loved by Princess Anne (well not literally-but then why not?) and has since died. But authorised biography. As my excuse, it was one I came across in an op shop and thought well, it would be a start. So, it turns out it is a bloody good biography. Durrell and Durrells come to life in its pages in suprising ways. First that Gerald was at least the intellectual equal to Lawrence and Lawrence was more of a peasant than his "literature" would suggest. It is a well researched biography despite being authorised, not hesitant in showing the flaws of G. Durrell, he appears never to have truely grown up eg become comfortable in his skin and the story of his aging and dying are sadder because of this element/thread of the narration.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Durrell was a zoo keeper who became a celebrity chiefly through his entertaining books.
He attracted a readership that wouldn't normally be interested in someone collecting animals for zoos. And the way he did that was to tell a good yarn, always laced with humour. Previous to Durrell, similar books on on exotic animals were devoid of humour. Usually the intention was to brow beat the reader with scientific facts. Durrell used his celebrity for the cause of wild animals in danger of extinction. He was flawed in many ways as a human being,and this book does not avoid describing his flaws.
But as a missionary for wildlife in danger he was a unique individual and this book goes a long way towards revealing the man behind the celebrity. Bill Naylor "Misadventures of a Zoo Keeper" 3rd edition
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