A few weeks ago a wrote a review of "My Family and Other Animals" by Gerald Durrell in which he relates the time he spent on Corfu with his family. In the course of writing the review I read a little about his elder brother, Lawrence. In MFaOA, Larry is quite a character and many of the laugh-out-loud moments come from the clever narration of his antics. But as I read more about him, something quite disturbing emerged.
It was this.
Lawrence Durrell has also written about the account of the family on Corfu (Prospero's Cell). This is not disturbing in itself, but there are a number of points at which the two accounts are so different (apparently, I haven't read his book) as to make one wonder about how they can both be true.
Lawrence writes about his wife and the house they shared in another part of the island.
Wait a minute! He was married???
In Gerry's book (MFaOA), there is absolutely no mention of a sister-in-law and Larry lives with the family.
Now this is a little troubling. Both cannot be true at this point.
Well the facts can be confirmed and Larry was in fact married. He married Nancy Isobel Myers* on January 22 1935 and they remained married throughout the whole time in which MFaOA was set.
Well. Having just fallen head-over-heals in love with the book, and therefore to some extent, its late author, this was a bit of a blow. I began to wonder about all the natural history in the book which I loved. Was this all made up too? Could I trust any of it?
And as I began thought about this, it brought to mind the gospels of Jesus Christ and the differences between them, and if and when differences between two accounts of the same events necessitate one (or both) being unreliable.
So I'm hoping to clarify my thoughts about this by getting them down on paper (on screen, that is) and hoping for your help as I go.
* Nancy's daughter, Joanna Hodgkin, recently wrote a book "Amateurs in Eden: the story of a bohemian marriage" in order to tell her mother's story (read a review here).