'A portrait inexact in detail, containing bright splinters of landscape, written out roughly, as if to get rid of something which was troubling the optic nerve.'
This is a quote from Prospero's Cell, a prediction from one of Durrel's friends as to how a book about Corfu would be if Durrel were to write it. The prediction was true. Prospero's Cell is languid, beautiful, informative (though never at the expense of style) and graceful. The seven chapters describing Corfu (the epilogue is in Alexandria)are each dedicated to an aspect of the island and its people, whether it is the island saint, the local theatre, or the gathering in of the grapes. The characters (non-fictional) are distinctive and three dimensional, but it is Durrels beloved isle that really catches your attention and holds it.
The form is conventional, and Durrel's classical education is evident throughout, both in his references and in his own character. However the language is startling and engrossing, effortlessly interesting and original, with a freshness which may be the result of hard work but does not seem at all laboured. There is something very unusual in the way he puts words together and the ways he constructs sentences, some of which are even better if you read them a second or a third time. His indolent charm seeps into every letter of every page, and even in the 'History and Conjecture' chapter his writing in meditative, almost soporific. He is purposefully honest, hating cliche, and though very poetic also clear-eyed. He is the most sensual writer I have ever read.
All in all I would definitely recommend this book , especially as an introduction to Durrel and his writing.