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Lawrence Durrell

As well as the bicentenary of one particular novelist's birth, this year is the centenary of the birth of Lawrence Durrell.  His Alexandria Quartet is one of my top three novels of all time, and possibly the book I would take to a desert island, were I ever on DID.  

I will probably re-read the Avignon Quintet this year, though, in his honour, as I also loved that but have only read it once.

He is not to everyone's taste, but I love his writing.  I also love Gerald Durrell's line in My Family and Other Animals that Larry had gone off to write some more of his 'deathless prose'.  The Durrells remind me of the Attenborough brothers in a way - one a naturalist with popular appeal, one more involved in the highbrow arts (ie more of a luvvie!), both very talented but very different personalities.  (And of course there is a lot more to David Attenborough than his love of nature.)

Anyway - not expecting hordes of Big Readers to join me, but I will be paying homage this year to Lawrence Durrell.

Hi Evie, I read a review in the Sunday Times last week of a book about Larry's first wife, Nancy Myers, whom he seems to have treated appallingly. The book is by her daughter from her second marriage, Joanna Hodgkin (aka novelist Joanna Hines). The Sunday Times reviewer had a rather low opinion of the Alexandria Quartet: "...those torrid, pretentious novels...".

Apparently Larry and Nancy were living together in Corfu in the period described in "My Family and Other Animals", but Gerald seems to have rewritten history and airbrushed her out, putting Larry instead in the family home.

I don't think you can access the Sunday Times for free online, but here is the Grauniad's review:

He did write the most wonderful book about his and Nancy's time on Corfu - Prospero's Cell, I think the title is - wonderful stuff.  But I have read on countless occasions how badly he treated her, and I think his relationships with women generally were not great for the woman...

But surely My Family... is set before Larry was married?  Very long time since I read it, and I remember the fabulous TV series much better (the Hannah Gordon one, not the more recent one), so maybe that's coloured my impression.  They were all children/teenagers in that.

Certainly some find him pretentious, which is what I was referring to when I said that he wasn't to everyone's taste.  I don't care...The Alexandria Quartet was a revelation to me, and continues to puzzle and delight in equal measure - not sure I'll ever quite get to the bottom of it.  I wish more contemporary writers were what others dismiss as 'pretentious' - ie using language in a deliberate and sophisticated way.

Another excellent read is the volume of his correspondence with Henry Miller, with whom he was friends - another much underrated writer.

Thanks for that link, Mike - have just read the article, and it's made me want to read the book.  And Henry and Anais Nin get a decent mention too.  

I don't worry about whether writers (or any other kind of artists) are nice people, though - doesn't affect the quality of their writing.  Bob Dylan, my greatest hero of all, treated his first wife very badly, I think, but it does not diminish my love for him one bit!

Nearly all my favourite writers were pretty horrible people! I think (unfortunately) it usually requires a great deal of selfishness to be a great artist of any kind. But when you read that Larry forbade Nancy from speaking to any man taller than 5'4" (his own height) it does rather diminish him (no pun intended!).

And I agree, I like the writing in the AQ, though I completely understand it's too overwrought for some palettes. I would rather have ambition and linguistic exuberance, even if it doesn't always work, than something safe and "tasteful".

MikeAlx wrote:
Nearly all my favourite writers were pretty horrible people! I think (unfortunately) it usually requires a great deal of selfishness to be a great artist of any kind.

"The writer's only responsibility is to his art.  He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.  He has a dream.  It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it.  He has no peace until then.  Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.  If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies."

- William Faulkner

I'm up for a re-read of 'The Avignon Quintet'. Evie. I was considering it anyway, as we plan to spend a couple of weeks in June down in the Vaucluse, just north of Avignon.  I would like to finish 'Moby Dick' before I embark upon another 'big read', but that is going on much more quickly than I had anticipated (i.e. I am finding it a much more enjoyable read than I had supposed it to be), so I should be ready to start on Durrell within the next few weeks.

Ooh, that's great, Chris - will be fab to have someone to talk to about it.  I have just started a Zola novel, and also want to finish that first, but am completely captivated by it, so I doubt it will take too long!

As for artistic personalities - I saw a wonderful documentary about Barbara Hepworth once.  She has famously been vilified for putting her children into care so that she could carry on with her sculpting - but fewer people are as judgemental towards Ben Nicholson, her husband, who ignored his family for the sake of his art.  I'm not justifying what she did, but she did it in desperation, I think, because she felt it was unfair that Ben could carry on his career but she couldn't.

As you say, Himadri, or rather, as Faulkner says, selfishness is probably a prerequisite for great art.

Evie, and anyone else who may be thinking of joining in, I have just started 'Monsieur', the first volume of 'The Avignon Quintet' I'm only 17 pages in, so not too far advanced yet, but I'm revelling in it so far.

At the begininning, Bruce, the narrator of this volume has just arrived in Avignon on the Blue Train (a train journey is surely the best way for any novel to begin!) having been summoned from Prague, where he is the doctor attached to the British Embassy, as a result of the suicide of his brother-in-law Piers. In the first few pages, we are also introduced obliquely to Sylvie, Piers' sister and Bruce's wife, who is confined to an asylum in the Vaucluse. We also learn something about Sutcliffe, a writer already dead, and his widow Pia, Bruce's sister. The relationships, as you can see, are complex, but they become more so as the stories develop, which is why it seems worthwhile to offer a word or two of clarification at this point. For the sake of my own sanity, I am trying to keep track of as many characters as I am able!

I'll post again when I have read a little more, or when anyone else feels ready to join in, whichever feels the better alternative.

Thanks Chris!  I got further sidetracked by a library book that needs returning in a few days, but it's short and I have nearly finished - Avignon Quartet definitely up next.

I have now started Monsieur.  So good to be back in Durrell-land...  I love that opening section, and the way he introduces his characters - he creates such atmosphere in his writing, it's all beautiful.


I have now finished chapter 1 - about 90 pages.  It is so, so good to be reacquainted with this novel.  I love the way Durrell introduces and then explores his characters in oblique ways.  There is seemingly a lot of description, yet nothing is really described!  No one else I know writes like this - I love it.

You can see his travel writerly skills very much in evidence, as in the Alexandria Quartet.  He moves between different places with such ease, and evokes each one equally strongly.  I really love the scene in the square in Avignon, just for the way it evokes the city.  Avignon!  (I love his use of exclamation marks!)

It sounds as if we are pretty much at the same place now, Evie. I've had a fairly busy spell, so I've been concentrating on savouring the Durrell experience rather than trying to build any momentum into my reading. Something I have been doing, partly because I shall be in the general area in June, is to try to identify a few locations on the map. I have a copy of Paul Hogarth's 'The Mediterranean Shore', with his watercolours of all Durrell's books and some comments from Durrell himself. The village of Monfavet is certainly on the map (where Sylvie's asylum is) and as Hogarth includes a picture of the church there, I assume Durrell used that as a model for that location.

The Chateau at Verfeuille, Piers's home, was based upon the real Chateau de Villevieille, just north of Sommieres, where Durrell lived, although in the book,
Verfeuille is placed in the Alpilles, so some distance from the actual place. The illustration in Hogarth's book came quite close to my imagined version of the house: perhaps a little grander, but not very different. There are pictures of the 'real' Villevieille on the internet, but as it seems to have been very much restored in the last twenty years or so, I didn't find it particularly relevant.

I'm now on to the second chapter, 'Macabru', so am approaching that more as a purely literary piece and less as a travelogue! I don't think there would in any case be much point in trying to track Bruce, Piers, Toby and Sylvie through the desert outside Alexandria to the oasis where they are introduced to Gnosticism.
The whole thing to me, at least, is completely inexplicable, but the atmosphere is wonderfully created and I can wallow in that for a while without the need for precise understanding.

Durrell's language, as you say, is one of the delights of the books. I particularly love the way he is able to pull himself back from the brink whenever he seems to be descending into deeply purple prose! One example is, when he has been describing the charged and intense triangular relationship between Piers, Sylvie and Bruce, he suddenly diffuses the situation by an alleged quote from Sutcliffe's novel, summing the relationship up as 'a love sandwich with...Bruce making the filling'. Certainly a rapid transition from the sublime to the ridiculous!

Yes, that's wonderful!  The sandwich, I mean.  Bruce, like Darley in the Alexandria books, has a slightly self-deprecating air, which saves him too from being too intense.

Thanks for those notes about the real places.  Funnily enough, I was thinking Durrell's writing is itself a bit like watercolour - washes with some detail picked out, slightly ethereal, not always quite graspable.

I don't understand everything either, but like you am happy to savour it and allow it to be its impressionistic self and follow the characters, who I love, and the wonderful scenes Durrell sets up.

Durrell's descriptive writing reminds me of Turner watercolours - that sort of floating, impressionistic feel, accented with vibrant colour. And you're right, he does have a humorous, ironic side which he uses to undermine an opposite tendency to earnestness that sometimes borders on the ridiculous. I think he was probably suspicious of both extremes in himself - certainly the character of Pursewarden in the Alexandria Quartet seems to indicate a suspicion that too much ironic distance isn't healthy.

I haven't got there yet, Mike, so my memory may be playing tricks, but I think Pursewarden also makes an appearance at some point in the Avignon Quintet, as an author in competition with Rob Sutcliffe. The way characters wind in and out of the narrative and change shape in so doing is one of the charms of both series of novels.

I have finished 'Macabru', ch. 2 of Monsieur, and am now absolutely *loving* ch.3, when the whole thing starts to shift...what is real, what is fiction...?

Want to say more, but too tired, but also too full of it not to post something before I go to bed!  What a writer he is.

I have had a perfect afternoon, sitting in the garden, enjoying the sun, and reading 'Monsieur'. I managed to finish the 'Venetian Documents' chapter, and am now enjoying 'Life with Toby'. I think when I have read the books before, I have tried too much to 'understand', to comprehend, for example what Gnosticism is all about. This time, I am much more going with the flow, and enjoying it all the more for that. I suppose because it is a re-read, I know that it is not essential to have a degree in theology to grasp what is happening.

What I am finding much more this time around, is humour. I hadn't realised before the extent to which the story can be regarded as a huge joke, or the extent to which Durrell is simply teasing us! Some of the characters make me want to laugh with joy (and not of the Doc Joy variety!). Of the Duchesse of Tu, for example, he tells us she 'smokes long green cigars, and once played the banjo in a diplomatic jazz band' - what a wonderful idea!

Of course, the difficult relationships betwee the main sets of characters, Bruce, Piers and Sylvie on the one hand, Rob, Pia and Trash on the other, provide a more serious aspect. Odd as their arrangements may be, one can feel the emotional strain and the despair that overtakes them all in one way or another.

Sabine as a character is coming more into focus for me now. I was interested to note the different way she is described by Bruce and by Sutcliffe, the first emphasising the negative side of her - 'massive head, with small black eyes and a long nose', whereas the latter tells us 'her eyes had turned lime-green in a very sunburned face' and that she had 'an Inca face with a heavy root to the nose'. She seems to be the only one to share Piers' deep involvement in Gnosticism.

I'm very much enjoying the Toby chapter. The material on the Templars is fascinating, although I hesitate to say so, for fear that people might suspect me of having read Dan Brown!

I finished Monsieur a while ago, and despite having read it before I was still thrilled by the final chapters, where our whole sense of what is real and what is fictional (all withing Durrell's fictional world) is undermined.  First we are told that much of what we have read is a novel by one character; then we are told that the real author is a different character; and yet it all still seems so real.  There was a real sense of loss for me to realise that certain characters were fictional...and then realising that they are all fictional, created by Durrell, was both exhilarating and confusing, and showed above all Durrell's skill as a novelist.  The writing itself is so engaging, not at all experimental, and yet he plays with our sense of belief as a reader in sophisticated ways.

One thing that always strikes me with his books is that despite the evocation of exotic locations and exotic characters, there is something very English about his writing - and I mean English rather than British.

The humour is wonderful, especially in Sutcliffe's Venetian notes, and his put-downs of Blanford, who he disparagingly calls Bloshford, his rival as a successful author.

And there is a lovely description of Sutcliffe and Toby in the second chapter, Macabru, where they are revealed as the inspiration for Boris Johnson:  "They both dressed rather alike, in untidy tweeds, and were both tow haired with blonde eyelashes.  They also shared a fearful myopia of identical dioptry, were apt to bump into inanimate objects, sit down on invisible chairs, or bounce off each other as they shambled about talking and gesticulating."

I am now half way through Livia, the second volume, which begins with a lengthy conversation between the real novelist and his fictional creation (I mean real within the context of the novel....there are novels within novels within novels here...) - fascinating, as we get the fictional character's take on his created world and companions, enhancing the sense of undermining what we believe to be real and what is fictional, and exploring the creative process brilliantly.  Unlike something such as, say, Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, where the characters are just that, here the whole thing is very real, the fictional characters as rounded as the 'real' ones, who are in any case the inspiration for the fictional ones...  It's not nearly as clever-clever as it sounds, it has a strong narrative sense despite all this, but Livia is much more intensely wordy and has quite a different sort of focus from Monsieur - so far I am trusting that the characters whose minds I am entering are 'real'!

Durrell is quite scholarly, with lots of classical and other references - but two glaring mistakes for me, which are at once a puzzle and also a salutary reminder that even great people make mistakes!  One is a description of a murder of a man with a six inch nail driven into his skull as being like Judith murdering Holofernes - but surely it was Jael who murdered Sisera that way, Judith cut off Holofernes' head.  That was in Monsieur; in Livia, he has just used the term 'light years' as a measure of time not distance, which is surely a schoolboy error.  

How are you doing, Chris?  I know you have had other preoccupations.

I'm feeling a bit guilty about neglecting Big Readers and all who sail in her - as you say, I have other preoccupations. I'm sure though, everyone else has equally pressing demands on their time, so that is no excuse, merely a confession of how badly organised I am!

I've been reading a lot lately (I'll report on that in due course), but have been neglecting Durrell, as the circumstances, or maybe it was my mood, just didn't seem right. However I'm now back on board: I finished 'Monsieur' last night and am ready to move on to 'Livia' this evening.

I wish you hadn't pointed out the similarity to Boris Johnson - I'm never going to be able to get that out of my head now, and that is not how I want to see Toby and Sutcliffe, but it is all too apt! I'm not sure that Durrell would have appreciated your comment about the Englishness of his writing - he detested Britain, which he called 'Pudding Island' and in fact spent a relatively small part of his life there. But I do see what you mean: I almost see him as the heir to some of those great 19th and early 20th century adventure and travel writers who evoked exotic places for the benefit of an audience firmly established in the safety of their own very English homes.

The way characters slip from being 'real' to 'fictions' is one of the joys of Durrell's storytelling, although as you point out, ultimately they are all creatures of Durrell's imagination. This, combined to the way they change according to the perspective from which they are seen, gives a dynamism to the narrative which keeps me very focused on the development of the story.
Some things in the book make me just want to 'go with the flow' - the Gnostism for instance, which I freely admit I don't really understand, - but the ebb and flow of the characters pulls me back from drifting off too far out of my depth (I think this metaphor is getting very mixed!) and keeps my mind on how they interact, both with themselves and their circumstances. Sometimes, the landscapes and settings seem more real than the people, which of course if reasonable - the characters come and go, are here for only a short space of time, but the background against which they work out their dramas is, if not unchanging, subject to change only over a much longer timescale.

I think I'm starting to ramble, so I will say no more until I have made a good strt on 'Livia'.

I've just returned from a trip to Cyprus, and I took Lawrence Durrell's book, 'Bitter Lemons of Cyprus' with me as my holiday reading. A brilliant, poetic memoir of his time in North Cyprus during the 1950s, ending on an elegaic note as the troubles begin. We were also able to cross the border and visit Bellapaix where he lived, a fascinating experience.

He is the most fabulous travel writer - though that, which I think is probably his most famous travel book, is still on the TBR.  I was blown away by his Prospero's Cell, about his time with his then wife on Corfu.  He uses that amazing ability to evoke places in his novels too.

Wonderful to read it in Cyprus, Klara!

I am still reading Livia - my reading has slowed down a bit lately - and while it's not engaging me as much as Monsieur, the writing is still holding my attention, and his wonderful characters never fail to engage - he really does create the most extraordinary characters, even when they are relatively ordinary people (Darley in the Alexandria, Bruce in the first volume of this).

Monsieur was such a fabulous tour de force, and while Livia started with the same sort of brilliance, I haven't felt quite so entranced in the middle section.  It could be my lack of concentration, though.

Chris - yes, the 'Pudding Island' thing has always made me laugh, and it's because I knew of his disdain for Britain and England that I found the Englishness of his writing so interesting.  And I'm sorry about Boris Johnson!

KlaraZ wrote:
I've just returned from a trip to Cyprus, and I took Lawrence Durrell's book, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus with me as my holiday reading. A brilliant, poetic memoir of his time in North Cyprus during the 1950s, ending on an elegaic note as the troubles begin. We were also able to cross the border and visit Bellapaix where he lived, a fascinating experience.

I am envious - when I read it in NZ I felt I was almost there in Cyprus with the people he writes about.

I'm still on the first section of 'Livia', in which Blanford discusses the creation of fictional characher with Sutcliffe, who is his creation and mentions ' a series of books through which the same characters move for all the world as if to illustrate the notion of reincarnation'. The Duchesse de Tu, from 'Monsieur' is indeed reincarnated as Constance, the sister of Livia and so far seems to be very much the focus of this story, although, of course, she has her 'own' book as the next in the sequence. She was a likeable, if somewhat grotesque, character in the earlier book, and here is engagingly portrayed as the light in contrast to Livia's darkness.

So far, the sensual descriptions of 'Monsieur' are not evident and there is a lightness of tone which is very different from that of the first book. Also, of course in 'Monsieur', Durrell makes us accept his characters as 'real', whereas here we see them at a remove, a new set of characters now coming to the fore as representing the reality from which the fictional one were created.
A sort of enigma within an enigma!

I have six weeks to go now before I am due to be 'there' - we are planning to stay in Vaison-la-Romaine, which is in the Northern part of the Vaucluse, but still within reach of Avignon and some of the other areas described in the series of books. I plan to read at least 'Livia' and 'Constance' before we leave, maybe even 'Sebastian', and save the last book to read while we are away. I know the whole thing is not set in Provence, but the area plays a sufficiently important role to make it worthwhile to approach it as an adjunct to reading the novels.

Evie, I noted somewhere that you were still a bit bogged down in 'Livia'. I can absolutely understand that. To me, it does not seem to work as a novel in its own right, but works more as an exposition of Durrell's intentions and as a chance to reposition and expand on some of the characters and stories from 'Monsieur', as well as introducing a few people who will be significant in future. The fabulous set peice of the banquet at the Pont du Gard does round it off very nicely, though.

I didn't get as far as I hoped while on holiday, just to the end of 'Constance', but as that is a very hefty book in its own right, I was pleased to have made so much progress.

'Constance' is a very different story with a gripping, if emotionally difficult, plot. Avignon, Egypt and Geneva during WW2 are the principal settings, although it moves around quite a bit. Identities again become somewhat blurred, with Sutcliff and Blanford achieving some sort of co-existence and another trio of brother/sister/lover appearing to echo Piers/Sylvie/Bruce. The fate of the various characters under Nazi occupation and in various war zones is extraordinarily moving and the brutality of those times graphically described. It wasn't an easy read, but it was much more satisfying than 'Livia'.

I hope you will soon feel you can read a bit more, Evie. I won't post any more until I know where you are up to, as it would be more interesting to be able to exchange a few opinions.

Thank you for this, Chris!  I am back into a better reading routine, but still haven't finished Livia - have got sidetracked, in what little reading I have done - but once I have read the book for my book group, which meets on Wednesday, I will get back to Durrell, who I am missing a lot.  I remember loving Constance when I read it before.

Part of my problem lately has been that I have been borrowing books from the library, as I want to keep supporting it - but that means I have to read those books as I have them for three weeks (and am a slow reader!), hence getting sidetracked.  But I have upped my reading time a lot lately, and am making good progress again, and loving my reading, so hope to be back on track soon!

Back on the Durrell, and it feels soooooo good!

I have now finished Livia - the first and last sections were thrilling, and the middle bit was confusing!  I found it hard to follow the different strands, and still don't really understand how it all fits together.  But the writing...oh, the writing - the set pieces are just *glorious*, as are the characters themselves.  And the names - Durrell is so good at naming his characters!

There was a quote near the end, as Blanford is thinking on a moonlit walk, that interested me as an art historian:  

Painting persuades by thrilling the mind and the optic nerve simultaneously, whereas words connote, mean something however approximate and are influenced by their associative value. The spell they cast tends to master things - it lacks innocence. They are instruments of Merlin or Faust. Painting is devoid of this kind of treachery - it is an innocent celebration of things, ony seeking to inspirit and not coerce.

Interesting.  I love Blanford, and his dialogue - real or metaphorical - with Sutcliffe is the highlight of the novel for me, just brilliant.

Anyway, fabulous to be enfolded in Durrell's exquisite writing again - poetic, funny, earthy, heartbreaking.  Now on to Constance.

Lovely article about Lawrence Durrell here:

Thanks for the link, Evie: an interesting overview. I have never really got into Durrell's poetry, although I must make the effort one day. A boss of mine many years ago was a great admirer, but I have only really read his prose, varied as that is.
Gul Darr

As you know, Evie, I absolutely *love* the Alexandria Quartet. However, you may remember I started reading Monsieur and it just didn't have the same magic in my opinion. Then I came to the passages about Gnosticism and just couldn't continue. Nonetheless, I would like to read some more Durrell, seeing as how highly I rate his writing. Do the other books in the Avignon Quintet also explore gnostic experiences and is it necessary or advisable to have completed Monsieur first?

Gul, so sorry for missing this post...  There is Gnostic stuff in the Quintet, but not all the time - Livia, the second novel, doesn't have anything particularly - though it's one of the fascinations of Durrell's world for me, even though it is so alien to my own thinking.

You do have to read Monsieur first, I think - certainly Livia won't make sense without that - the whole structure depends on knowing the final parts of Monsieur.

I do get confused in my mind as to which of the set pieces occur in the Alexandria or Avignon series!  

I am now onto Constance, and once again luxuriating in being back in the world of Durrell's fabulous writing.

One thing I meant to mention - near the end of Livia, Durrell uses the phrase 'top whole' - I have usually (always?) seen it written as 'top hole' - anyone have thoughts on that?

I always thought it was top-hole as used by Wimsey and Wooster in those delightful tomes. Not a word used much today I would think - it's all text speak now to show sophistication!
Gul Darr

Thanks, Evie.
'Top whole' must be a mistake? I've never seen it before.

Yes, I can't find any other reference to 'top whole' - possibly a printing error, or a proofreading one - Durrell did write quickly.  He is not infallible - I have come across one or two other doubtful things, though this seems fairly elementary.  I just wondered if it was me that was getting it wrong!  As you say, Castorboy, not used that often - though quite frequently in spoken English, with a put-on posh accent.

I finished Constance this morning.  Constance!

Marvellous stuff - so much to think about, and I thought about very little of it...  Politics, sex, human behaviour, nationality and nationalism, all those things in all their complexity, with wonderful characters, witty dialogue, fabulous evocations (more than descriptions) of place, and writing that feels like a warm, luxurious bath.  So sorry not to have more detail to give, but maybe it will come.

Now onto Sebastian.  Sebastiyanne...

Finished Sebastian - the shortest in the series - this morning.  More later...just wanted to record it!  Fascinating stuff.

I must get back to Durrell and make a start with 'Sebastian'. I did feel the need for a break after the emotional intensity of 'Constance' and just recently I have been deep into the 'Parade 's End' books. I  am about half way through the third volume, so have comfortably managed to stay ahead of the BBC series.

Any comments on 'Sebastian'? It is probably the book that I remember least well from previous reading, so I don't really have an impression of what awaits me.
Green Jay

There was a programme on Radio 4  - a reassessment of Lawrence Durrell and a look at why his reputation seemed to go rapidly into decline. I didn't hear it but it's just been advertised as still available via the BBC website - I suppose they mean i-player! It is some sort of anniversary - 100 years since his birth? - so there may be more stuff about.

Did any of the Durrell fans here listen?

My reading of the Alexandria Quartet came creaking to a halt some time ago.

I didn't hear this, or hear about it, so thanks for that - will see if I can still listen on iplayer.  2012 was his 100th anniversary, which is partly what sparked my re-read of the Avignon books - sadly didn't quite finish by the end of the year! - so R4 are a bit behind with that.  Would be good to hear the programme though.

I did hear most of it and enjoyed it, although there were no great revelations. I, too, was puzzled by the Beeb's billing of this as 'Durrell at 100' : obviously, we are still in his centenary year, but they do seem to have caught up a little late. I got the impression that there might be a few more Durrell-themed broadcasts, so will keep an ear out for anything else. Meanwhile, I must return to 'The Avignon Quintet' as soon as possible!

At long last, I've begun 'The Alexandrian Quartet', having bought all four books in the paperback Faber edition from a second hand bookshop last year. I don't think, however, I'll be romping non-stop through the books in a page turning way; I think I'll be reading a chunk, then perhaps setting the book aside and getting on with other reading before returning---but I certainly intend to get through it all. So far, I've read half-way through 'Justine' and I'm a little bewildered by the strange, elliptical quality of the prose. There are vivid moments, and others that seem almost over-written, and too self-consciously 'literary' for today's taste, but it's definitely a fascinating work.

We are watching and enjoying The Durrells at the moment and I didn't remember the romance between Larry and Nancy as portrayed there from Gerald's book (which I rated very highly) but thought that must have just because I don't remember the details of books I have read very well.

But I was reading in The Oldie something about the 'forgotten author Lawrence Durrell" and I said to my husband 'Well, he's not forgotten on my  books message board.'  And in the next edition there were a couple of people refuting the Oldie statement.

Hi Caro, if memory serves, in real life Larry and Nancy were already married at the time, and living in a different villa. Can't remember if this was the case in the book or not.

Apparently, Mike, Gerald never mentioned Nancy in his books, at least not in My Family and Other Animals. I didn't realise it was Lawrence who persuaded the rest of the family to relocate to Corfu.  I think they did all live together at first.  

He seems to have had a very unsettled private life with one daughter committing suicide, and three divorces and one wife dying early.

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