I’d read My Family and Other Animals but by the time I watched the show The Durrells, I didn’t remember much of the details of the stories, so I decided I wanted to reread it as well as the next two: Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. I’d read that the show was fictionalized and I could tell Larry was greatly changed, and I felt that the tone and atmosphere of the TV show was waaaay more modern (stereotypically so and what they did to Leslie . . . urgh!) than the book. I remembered many of the main characters from the book, but I couldn’t remember the various stories and wanted to know how much was fictionalized.
I was absolutely correct about the tone and Larry plus the show writers, in addition to the bizarre modernization and adding of dysfunction (the family fought and all in the book, but the show added a level of something else) leached much of the humor and depth out of the episodes and replaced it with soap.
A lot of the more recurring or minor characters in the show were actually in the book, and in the book much better or quite different. Unfortunately though, with Captain
Lech Creech, we got his whole, horrid self in both versions, although he just didn’t show up with quite the frequency in the book as in the show I think. And the tv show left out a highly entertaining character, the marvelous French count. I don’t see how they could have left out someone so hilarious, but then again, the show seemed to prefer soap to wit. Also, since the show writers apparently felt the need to reduce Leslie to the narrow-minded stereotype (understand that both ways if you please) the French count labelled him as being, they couldn’t very well appreciate the sarcasm.
There is a beeeyouteeeful several paragraphs about the Count which I had to shorten for space:
“Three days later the Count appeared. . . we soon found that the Count found himself so attractive he felt it necessary to change his clothes about eight times a day to do justice to himself. . . Combined with this narcissistic preoccupation with himself, the Count had other equally objectionable characteristics. . . His English was limited, but this did not prevent him from expounding on any subject with a sort of sneering dogmatism that made everyone’s hackles rise. His philosophy, if any, could be summed up in the phrase, ‘We do it better in France’, which he used repeatedly about everything. . . He arrived, unfortunately, in time for lunch, and by the end of the meal, without really trying, he had succeeded in alienating everybody including the dogs. It was, in its way, quite a tour de force to be able to irritate five people of such different character apparently without even being aware of doing so, inside two hours of arrival. . . To Leslie, he offered the information that anyone who was interested in hunting must assuredly have the instincts of a criminal. . . “
And then a bit later, this gem:
‘I’m not sure I shall last the course,’ said Larry. ‘So far about the only thing he hasn’t claimed for France is God.’ ‘Ah, but they probably believe in him better in France,’ Leslie pointed out.
But, then with the reaction to Emily of Paris, it does seem that some French don’t seem to understand that yes, you are on the same plan as us other peons, and if we can be teased and stereotyped and caricatured (Hello, have you met Hollywood? They would think I’m from Deliverance. Cah-rye me a river!). Maybe this section (of one person) is too demoralizing for those sorts.
“Like so many Americans, they were possessed of a charming naïveté and earnestness and these qualities, as far as Leslie was concerned at any rate, made them ideal subjects for practical jokes.”
And there is more in the same vein, I have so many quotes from these books. I highly, highly recommend the books, they are so atmospheric and unique and hilarious and perfectly Summer-y.