Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times is a meme which was started by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.


It must be at least twenty – maybe even thirty years since I stumbled across Elizabeth von Arnim, not that I knew the name but I found a small copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden which didn’t even have an author’s name on it. I loved it so much that when I did discover who wrote the book I started to collect everything else that she had written.

Some of Elizabeth von Arnim’s books are available free from Project Gutenberg here.

The other books on this shelf are by Lawrence Durrell, I think I read some of his books back in the 1970s, gave them away and then bought these ones again but so far I haven’t got around to reading these ones, now I’m not even sure that I read any of them although I definitely did read books by his brother Gerald.

The Edna Ferber books I read some years ago. I enjoyed them both but particularly Show Boat and that edition is particularly stylish I think as it’s a facsimile of the original 1926 book. Some of her books are available on Project Gutenberg too. I remember I enjoyed reading Roast Beef, Medium it’s a collection of short stories. You can download them here.

Show Boat cover

Fillets of Plaice by Gerald Durrell

Corsair, 2015, 352 p.

Fillets of Plaice cover

If you enjoyed watching The Durrells on TV recently then you’ll probably enjoy reading Fillets of Place by Gerald Durrell. It was first published in 1971 and it consists of just 191 pages with five chapters, each of them about a particular Durrell escapade.

The settings are all over the place, reflecting some of the varied locations that Gerald Durrell lived in over the years. His first job as a youngster in London was in a pet shop where he knew much more about the animals than the man who ran the place. Gerald seems always to have had a knack for making friends with unusual characters so this adds up to an entertaining read.

The only gripe I have about the book is that I found it a wee bit disconcerting to go straight from him being a 15 year old in London to the next section which has him at least double the age and living in colonial Africa. Just one of the chapters features Corfu and his family but that is not a problem, he met up with plenty more interesting people in his travels. He does mention that the Ibo – a Nigerian tribe spent their time crossing the border into Cameroon to con the Cameroonians out of whatever they had, and I couldn’t help wondering if that is the same tribe that tries to con people on the internet nowadays!

In the Corfu section it’s mother’s birthday and as the Durrells are all rather self-centred the poor woman has been given presents that they all want themselves. After telling them not to remove her beloved ice box from the kitchen they of course do just that, intending to take it on the boat as they sail off for the birthday picnic. It is of course a disaster.

It’s incredible for me to think that this book was written getting on for 50 years ago and he was writing about the past then, so a lot of what he is writing about seems like another world now, colonial Africa in particular. But even in the 1970s I was bothered by Gerald’s obsession with collecting and caging wild animals. I can’t imagine why such an animal lover would want to do that, he mentions having a pair of magpies in captivity, what a thought, but I suppose times were just different back then. It isn’t all about animals though, one chapter is about a horrendous nose bleed and another is about a crazy girlfriend. It’s a fun read.

I read quite a few of Gerald Durrell’s books back in the 1970s but I don’t recall reading anything by his brother Lawrence, although I’ve recently bought a couple of his books. Have any of you read anything by Lawrence Durrell?