All Creatures Great and Small
Open Road Media
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.
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