This is the first Durrell book that has disappointed me. It\’s about a fictional bird on a fictional island. The tropical island is just starting to work out its independence from British colonialism, it has a native king and two local tribes that are at odds with each other. The British have plans to build a military base which requires a dam to be built to provide electricity, part of the reef to be destroyed to open up the harbor access, and more changes. Some see this as progress, others as environmentally destructive. Then (I didn\’t get this far, but I read enough synopses to know what was coming) an endemic bird that was presumed extinct, is discovered alive and well in the forest. Planned construction projects will threaten the bird. There was already friction over the airstrip and dam project, but because of the bird tensions quickly escalate.
Unfortunately, I couldn\’t read this. I struggled thought the first three chapters and then started skimming. I really did not like any of the characters, and the only one who was tolerable (a visiting young man who\’s supposed to assist the king\’s political advisor) was also rather uninteresting. The rest were highly eccentric, to the point of being annoying or ludicrous. Presumably these are based on people Durrell met in real life, but I wonder how much he exaggerated their quirks. The made-up pidgin language used as communication between the natives and the Europeans felt cringeworthy, as did the native slurs casually tossed around, in particular wog
was used so frequently I got tired of it. (I did see a similarity between the vociferous insults constantly spouted by the king\’s assistant to all his underlings, and the way Gerald addressed Lucy in Castaway
– but although the king\’s assistant used very creative language in his insults, and G mostly just swear words, that\’s nothing to recommend this).
Not to mention, something about the prose (or lack of it) was a bit tedious. I found myself impatient wading through tiresome dialog hoping to get to something happening, and then bored. Sigh. Moving on.