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A Gerald Durrell for the 21st Century.
on 23 May 2008
I read a review of this in Conde Nast Traveller by Giles Foden describing it as "My Family and Other Animals - in Africa" and, having been a fan of Durrell since I was a teenager, I felt compelled to see if he was right.
So, granted, there's not so much about about animals in a pin-them-to-a-board-and-count-their-abdomens kind of way, but the way Robyn Scott brings to life the wildlife and landscapes of Botswana, where she grew up as a child, is very much in the spirit of Durrell's books. Hers is also an eccentric family - a flying doctor father, a homeschooling mother, an adrenaline-addicted brother and animal-obsessed sister, and, making regular cameo appearances throughout, her four wonderful grandparents, (in particular her grandfather Ivor who, with his crazy schemes, questionable flying skills and longstanding feuds, makes for many laugh-out-loud moments.) In the midst of it all is Robyn, the narrator, an oasis of calm who desperately wants to be a normal child from a normal family.
The book's real triumph is Robyn's ability to show us the warmer, more human side of Africa that we so seldom get the chance to read about. It's a really life-affirming and big-hearted book, like a love-letter to Botswana, it colourful inhabitants and beautiful landscapes.