Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell is the second of three quasi-autobiographical books describing the Durrell family's sojourn in Corfu when Gerald was a young child. The main characters in the book are Gerald's widowed mother, Gerald's brothers, Larry (who grew up to become the distinguished novelist Lawrence Durrell) and Leslie, his sister Margo, and many members of the Greek and expatriate communities of the island, as well as the island itself and its flora and fauna.
The book opens with a prologue, set many years after the book itself, in which the family is meeting in England and discussing Gerald's previous book in the series, My Family and Other Animals, and recounts Gerald's reasons for writing another book.
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives is written in the first person, through the eyes of Gerald, a ten-year old child and enthusiastic amateur naturalist who would grow up to become a leading animal collector, conservationist, and zoo director. In elegant and sparkling prose, he described his activities observing and collecting animals around island, interspersed with affectionately humorous portraits of the island's inhabitants. Among the most lovingly drawn portraits are those of the animals, the toad Augustus Tickletummy who like to have his belly rubbed, Gerald's three dogs, Roger, Widdle, and Puke, his pet owl, a family of baby hedgehogs, and a dancing bear.
This book, the second in a trilogy, contains the boyhood reminiscences of Gerald Durrell, the youngest of the four Durrell children. Gerald, who would grow up to be a famous naturalist, lived on Corfu with his widowed mother and three older siblings after the death of his father. Lawrence Durrell, who would go on to be a famous novelist, did not actually live with the family (as portrayed in the book) but with his wife, Nancy, also on Corfu.
The book contains a series of humorous incidents with the Durrell family, including Gerald's brother Leslie, who enjoys shooting guns, and his sister, Margaret (called Margo), who sunbathes and burns herself to cure her acne. The family is helped in all things, including in finding their villa, by their local friend, Spiro. Gerald acquaints himself with the flora and fauna of the island accompanied by his dog, Roger, and his doctor friend, Theodore, who speaks far better English than the Durrells speak Greek. During the course of the novel, the family also gets to know the locals better, and they attend a Greek wedding. Gerald visits a reclusive countess and receives an owl as a pet. He writes that while living on Corfu, the family for the most part forgot that England existed.