|About the Book|
Jacquie DurrellFor those who’ve been seriously deprived of good stories, the Durrell family can make up for the lack in about 5 minutes in any book you read. Jacquie Durrell is the ex-wife of Gerald Durrell, whose exploits were first patiently hammered out on a borrowed typewriter in a bedsit with her as the chaperone of the spelling, among other things.To really appreciate Jacquie Durrell’s contribution to the modern science of ecology/wildlife preservation, Intimate Relations is a very good indicator. Any book by the Durrell family, is worth reading. The Durrells are a family of the best Irish/English type, all of them with a wit which could dry a martini quite easily.To explain for those not enlightened in terms of Durrells as a species:Gerald Durrell: Naturalist from birth, founder of Jersey Zoo and major driver of the first wave of wildlife preservation.Lawrence Durrell: Enforcer and innovator of astringency in English usage, author of a style which may be used for vivisection.Margo Durrell: Sister of the above, whose book Whatever happened to Margo qualifies as a testimony to genetic eyes for a good story.Jacquie Durrell: A sort of ecologically inclined Audrey Hepburn to look at, and equally able to pack a punch when writing a sentence.Intimate Relations starts off as a quick biographical sketch. Jacquie’s style is to some extent the self-deprecating English style, but if you know the Durrell saga, it’s hard not to laugh at what she doesn’t say. She met Gerald Durrell, thought he was much too good looking and too popular. Against her father’s wishes, she married him, apparently despite these obvious failings and what she describes as a barrage of flowers and dates.They started out flat broke. Broke, as in literally scraping for a long time. For those wondering, getting anything done as a naturalist does, rather inconveniently, require money. So does having a place to live. No job, no apparent chance of getting one. Jacquie describes the epiphany of getting Gerald’s stories into print for the first time.Not as easy as it sounds. Durrell himself has mentioned his quasi-relationship with spelling. Jacquie recounts how they actually had to do pre-whiteout pasting of corrections on the pages. If you’ve ever used a manual typewriter, you’ll know what a blessing that must have been. Getting caught in a combine harvester would be comparatively simple.Intimate Relations moves on to actual wildlife, as distinct from the British social variety, with a series of screechingly funny, poignant stories about their trips overseas. The only real criticism of this book is that it’s about 500 pages too short. Every story is told by a very articulate woman with a sense of humour which would probably be illegal in any country other than England.The stories are lethally funny if you’re a real animal person. It’d be manslaughter, at least, in the Crimes Act. I defy anybody to read about Eggbert, the baby Screamer, without cracking up. Pooh, the Houdini raccoon, is another case.Few sitcoms would dare even think of trying to produce an elegant apartment full of animals, let alone explore the possibilities. This book does. Few self-help books would explain how (and why) to have your home and your life run by a squirrel. The average self-help author wouldn’t understand how valuable this information is.Like many of Gerald’s books, Intimate Relations takes up where Aesop left off. Jacquie keeps her own measured, very witty voice while not going off on tangents, and lets her stories run free. Never mind Aristotle for now, read this.