Motherhood and Mrs. Durrell

I recently binged the PBS Masterpiece series “The Durrells in Corfu” over the past couple of months, and I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It’s a period piece set just before World War II that centers on a widow, Louisa Durrell, who moves herself and her four children to the Greek island of Corfu 8 years after the death of her husband. It’s televised adaptation of The Corfu Trilogy written by Gerald Durrell, famed British conservationist. Louisa is the mother of 4 children: two young adult boys — Larry and Leslie, a teenage daughter — Margot, and a pre-pre-teen son — Gerald, or Gerry. I was inspired by the kind of mother Louisa was to her children. While they initially appeared as spoiled little shits, Louisa gradually gained her own footing and began making more appropriate demands of them, and they all became truly helpful in later seasons.

Her oldest son, Larry, is a bohemian writer who authors books that are highly sexual and ever-so scandalous. Her tolerance of his discussion and ponderings on sexuality and the overall acceptance of his personality and writing by the whole family feels so natural though not effortless. She respects his autonomy, and as adult and as a mother of children on the cusp of their tweens, I find her viewpoint refreshing. She understands the natural surge of desires and was only supportive. She helps her daughter Margo navigate romances and her feministic tendencies. She never imposes shame upon her dalliances and is open to answering questions, no matter how cringey. When her second son Leslie, impregnates a girlfriend at age 19, Louisa only, ONLY, offers support. She supported his decision to not marry the young woman out of obligation, but makes her family a safeguard of love and affection for the child. She ensures his financial support of the child and promises her help to them both in raising the child. Even when the baby turned out to not be Leslie’s baby, he and Louisa both continued their support of Daphne and the baby, with Leslie even becoming the baby’s godfather. While all of this feels maybe normal now, this would absolutely NOT have been the case in the 1930s.

Another aspect that touched my heart was Louisa’s constant conflict over the education of her youngest son Gerry, who is a roaming animal lover and somewhat feral child. She battles back and forth over employing formal education versus letting Gerry explore and experience more incidental learning with his naturalist mentor Theo. Often, his education on the island was more of a mixture, which led to Gerald Durrell’s success as one of Britain’s leading naturalists, zookeepers, conservationists, and television hosts.

Then there were Louisa’s own loves. Her children watched her protect a homosexual friend, and eventually deny her own great love of Spiro out of respect for his desire to remain married. Her romantic feelings for others were often a source of amusement with her older children, who truly desired for their mother to be loved again. They respected her decisions and were safehavens in heartbreak.

At the end of the series, Louisa takes responsibility for her family yet again, by returning them home to Britain before the Nazi invasion of Greece. I am finding it difficult to move my family to a different home in the same town. Her bravery in relocating not once but twice shows the real grit behind heroic motherhood.

I hope we all find a bit of Louisa Durrell in ourselves.

Sarah Keating
Sarah is a 30-something mom of four children under six and wife to her high-school sweetheart. She returned to Acadiana two years ago following her husband’s completion of medical school and residency in Shreveport. After the move, Sarah switched gears from full-time pediatric speech-language pathologist and working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom to her brood. Her current hobbies include “speech-therapizing” her children, re-reading the Outlander series, catching up on her Netflix queue after the kids go to bed, completing XHIT videos at naptime, and taking her medication every morning. She loves and respects the sacredness of motherhood, but sometimes you just have to let go and laugh it out. Motherhood has been the most humbling, and empowering journey she has experienced.


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