July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden August sky. A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it. Along the Bournemouth sea-front the beach huts turned blank wooden faces towards a greeny-grey, froth-chained sea that leaped eagerly at the cement bulwark of the shore. The gulls had been tumbled inland over the town, and they now drifted above house-tops on taut wings, whining peevishly. It was the sort of weather calculated to try anyone’s endurance.
(My mentor Howard Pease continues) Thus begins one of my favorite nonfiction books. It is a first-person story of several years in the life of the Durrell family, a widowed mother and her four children. Caught in a Channel town in weather continually bad, they voted in desperation to escape for one year to the inexpensive Greek island of Corfu. Mrs. Durrell, slightly vague in her suggestions, always charming and never shocked, allowed that year to stretch by vote to five years.