Gerald Durrell will make you roar with laughter even in a whispering land. The fact that this book is still in print after half a century gives you some idea that it is still quite readable: In fact, it reads as if it were written yesterday.
I devoured this book as part of a reading program I planned for myself for a trip to Patagonia. The first half of the book is set in two areas in Patagonia that I planned to visit: Puerto Deseado in the south, once visited by Darwin on his circumnavigation of the earth on the Beagle, and the large wildlife preserve at Peninsula Valdez, near Puerto Madryn. There, Durrell visited penguin rookeries; saw the breeding grounds of sea lions and elephant seals; and saw guanacos, Geoffroy's cats, rheas, and tinamous.
From Patagonia, Durrell went to the area around Jujuy in the tropical northwest of Argentina. There, he went into collecting mode as he employed locals to track down wild animals that were being kept as pets by the indigenous population.
Durrell's encounters with the local people are funny and at times heart-wrenching, as when he finds a self-taught naturalist named Coco who must work at a sawmill to make ends meet. But Durrell's encounters with animals are utterly hilarious, as his attempts to tame a captured Geoffroy's cat (gato montes).
One of the best chapters relates to the difficulties that Durrell has in exporting his animals and getting all his bureaucratic ducks in a row. His final departure on a ship bound to Europe is held up until a last minute solution satisfies a particularly mule-headed customs official.
I enjoyed this book so much that I plan to read several more of Durrell's works soon. It is hard to believe that the author is the brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell, author of THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET.