Saturday, 22 April 2017

Louisa Durrell's Corfu Romance?

The television Durrells, 2017.
The Times television critic Andrew Billen previews the second season of The Durrells, which starts tomorrow night, and wonders about mother Durrell's love life.  The following is an extract.

The biographer Michael Haag has just published an excellent book, The Durrells of Corfu, in which he pieces together the true story of the family’s stay on the island. I phone to inquire if he had uncovered any indications that Louisa had romantic interludes on the island.

“None whatsoever. Zero. Gerry made that up. Never happened. I have spoken to her grandson and other people and they say she was straight up and down, with no interest in other men whatsoever — purely her late husband. I am not quite sure what Gerry was doing there. He might have been ragging his brother Leslie, who was very protective of his mother. If you look in my book, there are two photos in which Leslie literally has his mother in his clutches, holding on to her in a very controlling way. And that comes through in this series.”

Nye happens to be a neighbour of [Haag's] and he says that his programme makes him smile. He also gives it some credit for subtly acknowledging the tale’s roots in tragedy, the death of Louisa’s husband, Lawrence Samuel Durrell, at the age of 44 from a brain haemorrhage in 1928, when Gerry was three. The photograph twice held up by Hawes in the first series is of the real man, an intimation, Haag writes on his blog, that “something more was going on than Gerry would ever admit as he turned to his world of animals”.

Some of that “more” was that in Bournemouth Louisa fell into alcoholism and had a nervous breakdown. Larry may have wanted to move to Corfu to live alone on a rock and write, but his conscience never allowed him to leave his family behind. After such eruptions, it is perhaps not surprising that Gerry made friends with the animal world that would later, when he was a conservationist, become his career.

The real Durrells at the Daffodil Yellow Villa c1936. Leslie is missing; he was taking the photograph.