“My Family and Other Animals” Book Review

Boy Under Tree by Norman Rockwell

If you are looking for some light fiction that is also written in sparkling prose, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is the book for you. I really cannot say enough good things about this read. It was sheer delight.

The book begins with a family of four children and their widowed mother tired of their humdrum average British life. On a whim, they sell their house and move to the island of Corfu and rent a house sight unseen. The story is told from Gerald’s perspective as the youngest brother, describing his family with a loving touch, though each member has his or her definite shortcomings. He strongly focusses on his intense fascination with the natural world as well as the curious cast of characters in this island community. Durrell relates his anecdotes in a such a humorous way that many times I frankly laughed outright. My husband gave me the side-eye more than once while I was reading before bed, tee-hee.

Also, I feel like I must mention that I am aware of the TV series loosely based on this book, but after watching some of it when I was finished reading, I would strongly recommend you skip the show and go straight to the book. The TV version doesn’t even seem to the be about the same people, really. They took the names and places and twisted Durrell’s optimistic, funny and uplifting family comedy into a somewhat dark, depressing and dysfunctional family drama. But that is just my two cents. If you loved the TV show, maybe you will like the book, too. In fact, you might like it even better!

I read My Family and Other Animals in fulfillment of the “Classic About a Family” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020. It also fills the “Biography/Memoire” category for me in both the Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge and the Scholé Sisters 5×5 challenge.

The Reading Report, Vol. 20: Reboot Edition

Hey, readers! It has been over a year (yikes!) since I posted an actual edition of The Reading Report. I have a ton of books going right now, but I don’t have any new reviews for the B2tC 2020 Challenge. So I thought I would pop on here today and give ya’ll an update on how I’m doing on all my current reading challenges. Brace yourselves…this could get long! 😉

Back to the Classics Challenge Report

I haven’t finished any new books on my B2tC list lately, but I am currently reading Gerald Durell’s My Family and Other Animals. I am likely going to use this title to replace Little Britches in the “Classic About a Family” category. I am also about to begin The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, and I will probably sub that for Til We Have Faces in the 20th Century Classic spot. After those are finished, I will have just 5 more categories to fill for that challenge.

The Literary Life 20 for 20 Challenge Report

For this challenge, let’s take a look at the titles and categories I have finished. The titles with an asterisk have been subbed for those on my original 20 for 2020 list:

Currently, I am also working my way through the following categories and titles:

Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Report:

This is probably the challenge on which I have made the least numerical progress, but the work of stretching me outside my usual novel-reading habits has been good for me so far. Here is how my 5×5 Challenge list is going so far. Titles marked with a ^ are finished. Those with a ~ are in progress

Mathematics

  1. ^ Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos ^
  2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
  3. ^ The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz ^
  4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
  5. ?

Biography/Memoire

  1. ~ Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser ~
  2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl
  3. ~ Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson ~
  4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
  5. ~ My Family and Other Animals by George Durell ~

Theology/Christianity

  1. ^ The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer ^
  2. ^ In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen ^
  3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
  4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer 
  5. ~ Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton ~

Health/Wellness

  1. ~ The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton ~
  2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
  4. ^ The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro ^
  5. ?

Literary Fiction

  1. ^ A Room with a View by E. M. Forster ^
  2. ^ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ^
  3. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  4. ^ The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde ^
  5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

Summing It All Up:

As you can see, I’ve been reading a lot for these challenges, and making some good headway for where we are in the year. This is also in addition to all the pre-reading I am doing for my son’s AmblesideOnline Year 4 books, plus family read-alouds that are not school related. Hopefully I can finish up some of my current reads because I am honestly having trouble juggling them all and still feeling like I’m making any visible progress. But, as the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race…and since reading isn’t a race anyway, I can feel good knowing I am learning and growing in my reading life at a steady rate!

How about you? How are you doing in your reading life? Are you doing any challenges, and if so, how are they going? You can always leave a comment with a blog post link so I can come read about your progress!

Reviewing E. M. Forster’s “A Room with a View”

Italian Landscape by Louis Valtat

Before I get into my thoughts on A Room with a View, I need to apologize to those of you who subscribe to posts via email. The post I published yesterday had a major formatting problem when it transferred to email, and none of the books I was trying to share with you were visible. I’m so sorry for that inconvenience. If you click over to the actual blog website, you can see all the titles and links there, but I should really have been more careful about checking that everything was going to work before hitting publish. Now on to the review…

I fell in love with E. M. Forster’s lovely prose last year when reading Howards End along with the Close Reads Podcast. When I saw a book containing two other of his works at a library sale last year, I snatched it right up. Ever since then I had been waiting for the right time to dive into A Room with a View, and when I saw the Classic (movie) Adaptation category for the Back to the Classics Challenge, I decided this would be my chance. (I also added it to my Literary Fiction list for the Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge.)

A Room with a View opens on young Lucy Honeychurch and her middle-aged cousin Charlotte Bartlett staying in a pension in Florence, Italy. It is quite obvious from the beginning that Lucy is not very self-aware, and the main thread through the book follows her journey to knowing her own mind and heart.

Forster is, like Jane Austen, a master of the novel of manners, and he shows the ways that societal conventions were shifting in Edwardian times, while also painting engaging characters, a satisfying romantic plot and breathtaking views of both Italy and England. He balanced the tension in the relationships with just the right amount of satire and humor, as well. Although not everyone in the story gets what they want in the end, I was pleased that Lucy not only becomes self-aware but also gets her happy ending. I also enjoyed the way Forster wraps up the story back where it all began. 

The big question now that I have finished reading the book is this—will I watch one of the film adaptations? I am as yet undecided. If I do, it will probably be the BBC version done in 2007. I tend to like BBC adaptations better than Hollywood productions. The truth is, though, if I do watch the movie at all, it will probably not be for a while because I don’t want to ruin the pictures I have in my mind from the beauty of the book just yet. I am definitely one of those people who rarely likes the film more than the book, at least when I’ve read before I’ve watched. What about you? Do you like to watch film adaptations of books you love? Do tell…

Another Reading Challenge? Or, My Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Picks

Call me crazy, but I have one more reading challenge to share with you for this year! The Scholé Sisters created the “5×5 Challenge” for 2020, and I decided to give it a go in addition to the Back to the Classics and 20 for 2020 Reading Challenges. The goal of the 5×5 list is to read both widely and deeply, so you choose 5 different topics/genres and 5 books in each of those areas. I am not quite as positive about completing this one as it is a bit more of a stretch due to the topics I chose. But I think even if I don’t finish all the titles, I will have made some good progress in self-education that I have been neglecting. Another part of the Scholé Sisters’ 5×5 Challenge is to read from your shelves or to reread books. So, I’ve noted with an asterisk which titles I have on my physical shelves or on Kindle. The only re-read is Til We Have Faces! Here are my choices so far:

Mathematics

    1. Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos
    2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
    3. The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz
    4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
    5. ? (Maybe something more about teaching math, but I’m not sure what.)

Biography/Memoire

    1. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser*
    2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl*
    3. Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson*
    4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
    5. Night by Elie Wiesel*

Theology/Christianity

    1. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer*
    2. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen*
    3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman*
    4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer* 
    5. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton*

Health/Wellness

    1. The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton*
    2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
    3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
    4. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro*
    5. ? (Possibly something about Swedish Drill or other exercise handbook for children.)

Literary Fiction

    1. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster*
    2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
    3. Silas Marner by George Eliot*
    4. The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
    5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis*

Yes, I still have a few blanks to fill in. I plan to fill those in with books referenced in the other texts in those areas. Or I may find some titles via Goodreads or someone else’s recommendation in the Scholé Sisters membership discussions. I guess we will just see where the spirit leads! Also, I’m curious…if you were to choose 5 topic areas from which to read in the coming year, what would they be? I’d love to get your responses in the comments!