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A Zoo in My Luggage (1960)

by Gerald Durrell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Zoo Memoirs (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7701122,013 (3.9)49
For animal lovers of all ages, the true story of how Gerald Durrell and his wife founded England's Jersey Zoo. The book begins with an account of Durrell's third trip to the British Cameroons in West Africa, during which he and his wife capture animals to start their own zoo. Returning to England with a few additions to their family, they have nowhere to put them as they haven't yet secured a place for their zoo. Durrell's account of how he manages his menagerie in all sorts of places throughout England while finding a permanent home for the animals provides as much adventure as capturing them--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 00
    We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee (geophile)
    geophile: Two different experiences starting a zoo.
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» See also 49 mentions

English (9)  Spanish (1)  Estonian (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
My least favorite of the Durrell books. ( )
  PhyllisH | Sep 3, 2021 |
I enjoyed this nonfiction book but don't think it was quite as good as some of the other Gerald Durrell books I have read. Maybe I should have read it rather than listening to the audiobook... ( )
  leslie.98 | Dec 6, 2020 |
This short but very entertaining book is about Durrell's return trip to the Cameroons (in Africa), eight years after his first visit (described in The Bafut Beagles). On this occasion he was collecting animals for his own zoo, which didn't have a location yet! The final brief chapters describe the difficulties of getting the animals safely home to England, and finding a site on which to build his zoo (the city didn't want it at first). Half the book is little stories about the wild animals, much is also about the Fon, a local dignitary Durrell met on his first trip, who greeted his return with enthusiasm- just as much for the nights spent drinking and dancing as for the economic windfall Durrell brought to his country, with his offer to buy as many wild animals as the local people could catch. The character sketches are delightful. Once again the phonetic presentation of the local pidgin dialect can be cringe-worthy, but I had encountered this before and knew what to expect...

Of course my favorite is reading about the animals. The cute bushbabies and infant squirrels, alarming snakes, elusive rare birds. A baboon that caused endless trouble, in particular amusing herself by ambushing visitors and tackling their legs. Two mongooses of very different types and temperaments. A squirrel that has green fur and a red tail- ? Hilarious chapter about his attempts to film wildlife in realistic settings doing normal things- with regular failure. A doormouse who having tasted the easy life in captivity, refused to leave when it was set free (it had suffered an accident which did no lasting harm but made it unfit for display in Durrell's opinion).

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Apr 23, 2017 |
This is another enjoyable and amusing book by Gerald Durrell, an account of one his animal-collecting expeditions to Bafut in the British Cameroons in West Africa. I didn´t know where this was and had to look it up in my atlas; the country must now have changed its name.

Previously, while collecting animals in that country, Durrell had been permitted to stay in the Palace of the Fon of Bafut. I don´t know what a Fon is, neither could I find the word in any dictionary, but Durrell states that he was a “potentate”. The Fon in question has innumerable wives and hordes of children; he is tall, elderly, and extremely entertaining.

Durrell had written about the Fon following a previous stay with him, but had become afraid that his portrait of him might have been “open to misconstruction” and the Fon might have felt that Durrell had portrayed him as a senile alcoholic. So prior to the present trip he writes to the Fon asking with some trepidation whether he, his wife Jacquie and his team might again be allowed to enjoy his hospitality. It turned out however that the Fon had been most flattered by the unexpected fame he had encountered after being depicted in depth in Durrell´s book (I don´t know yet which one that was); many Europeans had visited the Fon with Durrell´s book in their hands, and the Fon had ended up autographing all these books, as though he himself had been the author!

Durrell and wife are accommodated in the Fon´s Rest House and their extra team of two arrives later; many of the locals begin to queue up outside with animals (“beef”) they have collected to sell to them, news of their arrival having hastily spread.
We´re apprised of the antics of a baby black-eared squirrel they receive, called Squill-bill small and of Bug-eyes, a needle-clawed lemur. On reading Durrell´s books we realize that each individual animal has its own distinct personality, just as we humans do.

When talking to the Fon and the other locals, Durrell and the others use a form of pidgin English, only half of which I for one could understand.

The Durrells and the Fon enjoy many entertaining get-togethers, with much dancing, singing and drinking, not least the latter.

They are presented with many monkeys, and one of their favourites is a half-grown female baboon called Georgina. She has “a wicked sense of humour”, and this leads to many both amusing and less amusing escapades.

Back in England, Georgina runs riot in a large department store, so they require the aid of two constables together with Durrell´s sister Margo to capture her.

At the end of the book, Durrell by a stroke of serendipity finds a suitable place to deposit his animals and set up his zoo – in Jersey.

Durrell is a master story-teller and recounts innumerable riotous episodes.

To sum up, another delightfully entertaining book by Gerald Durrell, though perhaps it does not quite reach the level of “My family and other animals”, which is my favourite. The writing is excellent, there are many fascinating descriptions of the various animals´ behaviour, and humour abounds! ( )
  IonaS | Jun 18, 2016 |
an interesting, if at times upsetting from the outlook of today's animal care and ecological standards, window on a zoo owner's animal-collecting expedition in Africa
  betsyhartman | Mar 31, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gerald Durrellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thompson, RalphIllustrator & coversecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For animal lovers of all ages, the true story of how Gerald Durrell and his wife founded England's Jersey Zoo. The book begins with an account of Durrell's third trip to the British Cameroons in West Africa, during which he and his wife capture animals to start their own zoo. Returning to England with a few additions to their family, they have nowhere to put them as they haven't yet secured a place for their zoo. Durrell's account of how he manages his menagerie in all sorts of places throughout England while finding a permanent home for the animals provides as much adventure as capturing them--From publisher description.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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