Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Durrells and Corfu


The Durrells are back on Sunday evening TV, bickering and creating mayhem against the heavenly backdrop of Corfu. Simon Nye’s adaptation is gorgeous escapism, much as the island was for the real Durrells in the years before the second world war. And the tales it spins are about as misleading.

Some years ago I became so fascinated by the family, and elder brother Larry in particular, that I wrote a novel inspired by his traveller’s life – and four wives along the way. I loved Gerard Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals from the moment I opened it aged about eleven. It was the funniest book I had ever read, and Gerald’s vicious yet loving lampoon of writer Larry sparkled in a glittering sea of hilarious set pieces, the 'diminutive blond firework' by turns pompously literary and infuriated by marauding beasts and insects.

But as ever with the Durrells, the truth was never allowed to get in the way of a good story. As sister Margo once said: “I never know what’s fact and what’s fiction in my family.”

To read more, please hop over to Katherine Sunderland's BiblioManiac blog. This is the opening of a guest post I've written for her.
I'm still fascinated by the Durrell family, their books, adventures and the truth behind the stories, and have recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Michael Haag's The Durrells of Corfu. It's a great overview of their real lives, with some poignant new photos that have never been released before, though it doesn't reveal much of the darker, and possibly most fascinating aspects of their stories. Still well worth reading if you're loving the TV series, and I bet you'll want to find out more...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017


I don't feel like writing at the moment, not even - as must have become obvious - on the blog. I'm quite content just wandering, pottering, faffing about. And very lucky, it has to be said, that I am able to do just that when I want to.
In Bonnieux the other day, I caught sight of this magnificent wisteria behind a gate, through an archway. It looked intriguing so I stopped. For a brief moment I wondered who lived in the house and how long that bottle had been there in the courtyard. Another time, I might have considered whether it might make a setting for a scene in a novel, but I just took a photo because it was pretty and left it there.
Have I run out of steam? Does there come a time when a writer feels there's no more to say for a while? A few too many crass online reviews? "Meh." "No. Just no." "This book uses words that are literally not in the dictionary." (At least that one gave us a laugh.) I don't think it's anything to do with that. I'm someone who believes passionately in freedom of expression, and will defend to the end the right of reviewers to be mean if that's how they feel. There are enough other readers who do like my novels, which redresses the balance.
I've long thought that the reason for writing and reading novels is to try to make sense of the world. Each of my novels has contained some personal issue that I've been grappling with, though usually this has not become apparent, even to me, until some time afterwards. There's no equivalence in the plot. The manifestation is more like those dreams of places and people that don't seem to look like they do in life.
But in the case of the last novel, issues of identity and loss were all too close to the surface as I was struggling to write it. There was no time to process my emotions. They were raw and real and ever-present as I wrote through the winter that saw both my parents pass away within four months of each other. Over the book, the word "deadline" hung with a bitter, macabre irony.
Writing this now, I think I've realised what my silence is saying. "Give me a break."
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