Animal Antics: Gerald Durrell’s A Zoo in My Luggage

What do you do when you are passionate about animals? Well, if you are Gerald Durrell, you set about creating your own zoo. Oh, so you first find/ construct/ renovate a zoo and then go in search of animals? No, if you are the aforesaid eccentric (or ‘animal maniac’ as a character calls him), you first find animals and then for a considerable time you lug them round with you, often on your person as with this mongoose whom he had imprisoned inside his shirt and who sniffed around, clawed at him, sucked his abdomen, and passed urine regularly. Thus attired, with a urine-stained shirt and a mongoose tail dangling out, he goes to meet his host who feels he has had one gin too many:

“Tell me, dear boy, ” he said in a hoarse whisper, “I don’t want to be too personal, but is it the gin I’ve drunk or does your stomach always wriggle like that?”

“No, ” I said gravely. “It’s not my stomach. I’ve got a mongoose in my shirt.”

He gazed at me unblinkingly for a moment.

“Very reasonable explanation,” he said at last. (22)

And then – and only then – you set to find a zoo for them and in the meantime you use your sister’s back garden and even a superstore. The only hitch is the animals might escape:

As I paid off the taxi the first thing that greeted my eyes was the chaos in one of the big display windows of Allens. The window had been carefully set out to exhibit some articles of bedroom furniture. There was a large bed, made up, a tall bedside light and several eiderdowns tastefully spread over the floor. At least, that was how it had been when the window dresser had finished it. Now it looked as if a tornado had hit it. The light had been overturned and had burned a large hole in one of the eiderdowns; the bedclothes had been stripped off the bed and the pillow and sheets were covered with a tasteful pattern of paw marks. On the bed itself sat Georgina, bouncing up and down happily, and making ferocious faces at the crowd of scandalized churchgoers who had gathered on the pavement outside the window. I went into the store and found two enormous constables lying in ambush behind a barricade of turkish towelling… (172 – 173).

In short, this is a delightful book of Durrell’s stay in Africa where he is the guest of the larger-than-life Fon of Bafut and goes about searching for animals and the adventures there of.

Even if you are not too enamoured of animals, you will find this a joy to read.


First Line: THIS is the chronicle of a six-month trip that my wife and I made to Bafut, a mountain grassland kingdom in the British Cameroons in West Africa.

Title: A Zoo in my Luggage.

Author: Gerald Durrell

Publication Details: London: Penguin, 1964.

First Published: 1960

Pages: 191

Other Books read of the same author: Certain short pieces.


The book can be purchased on the Net. I borrowed it from a niece.


Submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), British Books, Wishlist

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