The Durrell house in Corfu may usually be a zoo, but now it’s also a sty. Louisa is away in England with Larry to oversee Aunt Hermione’s burial, which means the house has been left to Leslie, Margo, and Gerry. Needless to say, it’s a mess.
But then Larry is also in a wild living situation. He has been invited to stay with some bohemians in London, not least among them the libertine author Henry Miller, who has a penchant for wandering the house naked. It’s Larry’s heaven. “At last, people like me,” he sighs.
Louisa doesn’t feel the same way. She’s stuck staying in Dorset with some cousins who are as dreary as the weather. After Larry misses Hermione’s funeral because he’s enjoying himself too much in London, Louisa decides to follow his lead and shows up at the door of the flat where he’s staying. Durant, Larry’s host, promptly invites her to stay there, too.
She quickly ingratiates herself with the artists by making up exotic tales of her travels and life in Corfu. The artists are especially enamored with the gaudy necklace she borrowed from amongst Hermione’s things. Durant in particular is taken with Louisa, plying her with absinthe late into the night. Larry warns his mother about Durant’s intentions, but she shrugs him off – until Durant asks her to his room. She demurs, stumbles to her own room, and locks the door.
The next day, her cousins call the flat to speak to Louisa about the necklace but she is out, looking for another place to stay so that she can avoid Durant. When she returns, he promises to behave, and she takes him at his word and decides to stay.
Soon, more visitors arrive at the flat: Louisa’s cousins have swallowed their dislike of London and traveled there to find Hermione’s necklace, as it’s quite valuable. Unfortunately, Louisa has misplaced it – last she knew, Durant was wearing it. But she can’t find it when she searches his room, dodging his attempts to get her in bed all the while. Returning to her waiting cousins, Louisa tells them she left the necklace at the bank and will pick it up tomorrow. As they’re heading out the door, Durant invites them to stay as well. Penny-pinchers that they are, they accept, in order to save on train fare.
Louisa frantically searches for the necklace overnight and has all but given up when, the next morning, Henry Miller wanders into a conversation between her and her cousins while wearing it – and nothing else. Luckily, Louisa warns her cousins to cover their eyes before they see anything. She takes the necklace and stands outside for a while, pretending to go to the bank, then returns it to her cousins. After that debacle, she’s ready to return home to Corfu.
Larry doesn’t want to accompany her. He finally feels at home amongst these artists, and he has fallen for one of them, a striking painter. But when she unveils a portrait she made of him (actually a glass of water), then asks him if Louisa is sexually available, Larry suddenly feels out of place. Maybe Corfu is better for him.
What have the rest of the Durrells been up to back on that sunny Greek isle? Louisa forbade Margo from continuing her rekindled relationship with Zoltan until Louisa returned – she doesn’t want another unexpected pregnancy in the family – but Margo has been secretly seeing the Turk and getting money from him. Spyros is trying to prevent these escapades, especially since he harbors a deep-seated, and reciprocated, prejudice towards Turks. Margo tries to get Spyros and Zoltan to move past their ethnically based animosity, and slowly makes progress by forcing them to spend time together.
Gerry is also on a crusade: to prevent the Corfu residents from abusing their donkeys. He tries to hand out pamphlets but is brushed away by Greeks who decry his English presumption. When he sees a farmer whipping his donkey, Gerry intervenes, and the farmer simply abandons the animal – it’s old and worthless anyway. Gerry takes it to be x-rayed, afraid that it has a broken leg and will have to be put down. But the leg is fine – so the Durrells have another new pet.
Leslie has taken it upon himself to protect the home, having heard rumors of a dangerous gang roaming the island. He rigs up some rifles in his bedroom window and puts up a “Danger” sign outside the house. A Corfu policeman, impressed by his nerve, invites him to join the island’s police force. It’s the perfect job for Leslie, but he fouls up his chances when he hears rustling outside the house one night and accidentally shoots the hand of Zoltan, who was sneaking up to be with Margo.
Leslie despondently confesses his accident to the police, but they dismiss it as no big deal. Tell that to Zoltan. But Leslie is still on track to become a policeman, an aspiration he eagerly shares with Louisa and Larry when they return. To their surprise, the house is spotless. How did the younger Durrells manage to clean the house before their mother returned? Easy: stuff everything into Larry’s room.