Thursday, May 12, 2016

All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot)

All Creatures Great and Small
James Herriot
Open Road Media
Nonfiction, Animals/Autobiography
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: In the late 1930's, an eager young vet leaves school with a new degree and a dream of practicing small animal medicine in some nice city or town... only to end up treating farm animals in Yorkshire. Here, he recounts his first two years of practice alongside senior vet Siegfried Farnon, Siegfried's slacker brother Tristan, and the many peculiar characters (two- and four-legged) of the countryside.

REVIEW: Growing up in an animal-loving household, it's amazing that I missed reading these books myself before now, but a recent e-book reissue of the first three titles allowed me to correct this oversight. Herriot's tale remains a classic, doubtless launching countless careers (or attempted careers - veterinary medicine's not the easiest path) even as it captures a fleeting time precariously balanced between the old ways and the new, in medicine and the world at large. James starts out a wet-eared city boy who never intended to stay in the countryside, up to his armpit in the wrong end of a cow in the wee hours or dealing with stubborn Yorkshire farmers clinging to old lore (such as the oft-repeated rumor of a "worm in the tail" that's to blame for all manner of cattle ailments.) Had jobs not been notoriously scarce for new graduates, he never would've even made the drive out to Siegfried Farnon's practice. Through the course of the book, the countryside's charms, not to mention the unexpected challenges and rewards of the job, slowly work their magic, a fascination that shines clearly in Herriot's writing even in the most frustrating cases. No small part of those frustrations stem from Siegfried, a competent and cheerful fellow with oddly convenient memory lapses, and Tristan, who dedicates himself to a playboy bachelor lifestyle with almost maddening single-mindedness, not to mention other characters. Despite hints that the "omnibus" American edition has been trimmed (disappointing, if true), I enjoyed this, and will undoubtedly be reading more of Herriot's work soon.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Animal Wise (Virginia Morell) - My Review
The Cat Who Couldn't See in the Dark (Howard Padwee, D.V.M. and Valerie Moolman) - My Review

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