All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small, #1-2) By James Herriot

A lighthearted and cozy memoir of the life of a veterinarian set in rural northern England in the historic county of Yorkshire.

I read this long ago, and had added it to my list of books I’d loved at one point in my life and wanted to re-read. I think I requested that my library get a copy a year ago, and I finally got this just as I was just beginning another book about all manner of animals, My Family and Other Animals which takes place slightly before this first book of Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series, which covers some of the 30s and 40s.

There is more to this story than the animal / veterinarian anecdotes, or the cast of the characters who seem so delightfully real with Herriot’s ability to weave so much charm into these real-life people and their animals. Some are about the beloved house pets, some are about the eccentric owners, whereas there are more of the farm variety – cows, horses, pigs, chickens, and so on, but what doesn’t change very often is his love of what he does, or of this life he is building in this new place, surrounded by nature.

Where Herriot shines is in he made this come so fully alive for me, in his descriptions of this new, to him, landscape, and these people who are reluctant to trust a young whippersnapper like him, so used to the way things have always been done around here. And it feels so personally shared, as though he’s written this personal letter to you, or he’s sharing his stories around a warm fire on a winter night – comfy, cozy and warmly shared.

”You don’t find people like the Bramleys now; radio, television and the motorcar have carried the outside world into the most isolated places so that the simple people you used to meet on the lonely farms are rapidly becoming like people anywhere else.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book! 437 Not a long review because it has been years since I read this book; however, it was and still is one of my favorite books. His love for all creatures enhanced my love for them and his stories are timeless. It is a must read for anyone who loves animals and a good read for those interested in a very well-told tale. 437 All Creatures Great and Small is one of the funniest books I've read in my life, with humor that I think would appeal to a wide audience. I usually steer clear of animal-themed stories because they tend to be maudlin, but All Creatures Great and Small isn't that kind of animal book. Herriot wrote about his most memorable, strange adventures as a large-animal veterinarian who visited various farms to handle all manner of cases, at all hours of day and night.

I knew absolutely nothing about large-animal veterinarianism before reading this book; it wasn't something I gave much, if any, thought to. What I learned is that the profession is challenging obviously for the actual work but also exhausting because of the hours. Creatures don't always give birth at convenient times. If a cow is giving birth at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM, the veterinarian can't exactly ask her to wait until a better time.

I read this many years before joining Goodreads, but I still remember one of the most memorable, and hilarious, accounts involved Herriot reaching far into a pig's vagina to help deliver her piglets. As if that isn't bad enough, one of the piglets kept biting his hand with its needle teeth. This is such a bizarre (but needed!) profession. I suggest recounting such anecdotes in detail to all children who dreamily claim they want to be vets when they grow up.

Books containing great humor endear themselves to me almost immediately, and this gem holds a special place in my heart. I wish more writers wrote humor like Herriot did. 437 There are no negatives in this book. When I first read it (them as I read Herriot's vet stories one book after another)I would read them late at night in bed after my wife had gone to sleep. Frequently I'd be laughing silently, but laughing so hard I'd shake the bed. Now and again I'd look over and see her just looking at me having been awakened by my convulsions of mirth. Then I'd end up reading aloud for hours...costing us both much needed rest. 437 October 14, 2019
I have just finished reading and as expected, I have nothing much to add to my review. Except that I enjoyed it just as much as ever!

October 5, 2019
I am starting my second 'official' reading of this book but it is actually the umpty-second time I've opened it up to escape for a time to James Herriot's wonderful world. I very greatly doubt i will have anything different to say when I finish this go-round. The reason I am diving into the Yorkshire Dales again is that I just finished reading The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father and I simply have to revisit my old friends. And after this I will read the other four Herriot books on my shelves. I've also read them numerous times but 'unofficially' and many many years ago. So, that is why we are here, and now let's all go to Skeldale House!

Original review ~~ October 4, 2015
I've read this book so many times over the years, yet every single time I get to the last word on the last page I am ready to go back to chapter one and start all over. From the first day of Herriot's arrival at Skeldale House, being greeted by a tsunami of leaping, barking dogs, to the week of tuberculin testing that brings the book to a close, we share the moments of joy, laughter, tears, nerves, confidence, mix-ups and triumphs involved in his Yorkshire veterinary practice of the 1930's.

We meet the Farnon brothers and many interesting people around the Dales, not to mention wonderful animals that will live forever, just as the human characters will. Who could ever forget Tricki-Woo? Or that Labrador whose howling while coming out of the anesthetic drove poor Tristan half out of his mind? That huge farm horse that leaned so comfortably on Herriot while his foot was being examined...the list could go on and on.

It is always a pleasure to re-visit Darrowby, even when I know ahead of time how every crisis turns out. Herriot fills these pages with his love for his job, his joy for life, and his fascination with the people and animals around him. And if a story about any case makes Herriot appear a bit silly, it is still included, creating an even stronger sense of reality because we all have stories that now make us laugh but then made us cringe.

My thanks to Herriot for sharing everything with us, not only here but in all the other books he wrote: each one is a treasure. 437

The classic multimillion copy bestseller

Delve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world's most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.

For over forty years, generations of readers have thrilled to Herriot's marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.

In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot's periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot's recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.

James Herriot's memoirs have sold 80 million copies worldwide, and continue to delight and entertain readers of all ages All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small, #1-2)

It's semi-astonishing that I've been married to a veterinarian for a year and a half, which followed a year and nine months of dating/engagement, in which time I went on many emergency calls with her to treat sick horses (and the occasional goat), adopted a dog and a second cat to go with the first one my dearly beloved already owned, and various and other sundry proximity-to-a-vet type stuff has gone down AND YET only now have I finally said to myself, Hunh, I should read that James Herriot guy.

If I had to sum up All Creatures Great and Small in two words it would be overwhelmingly pleasant, with a temptation to throw in a delightful as well. Herriot writes with charming self-effacement about his early days as a country veterinarian in England in the late 30's. He has a never-ending supply of anecdotes, most of them funny, the rest simply heartwarming. He learns the hard way that his years of book learning don't compare to the things you actually learn on the job; that you can't argue with the boss even when they completely contradict themselves because, hey, they're the boss; that losing track of how many pints of beer (or tumblers of whiskey) you've had on a first date (or a job interview) is a bad idea. (Obviously, bonus points in my estimation for the number of funny drunk stories along the way.) But the best thing the book has going for it is the way that it unfailingly reinforces the simple notion that life is good. Every story has a happy ending, whether it's the hours spent getting kicked and wearing himself out in the freezing cold middle of the night to help a cow deliver twin calfs, or the last-minute acquisition of an experimental vaccine that saves a litter of kittens from an epidemic sweeping a farm, or even the vindication after putting a horse to sleep of knowing that it really was the best thing to end the animal's suffering. And every time Herriot feels like a fool for choosing the arduous, unrewarding life of a country vet he breathes the fresh air and feels the sun on his face or watches a mother animal lick its newborn baby clean or gets a fresh-baked pork pie from a grateful farmer's wife and he realizes it's all worth it. That's the main thing I want out of life - to never run out of those moments where, even though I can still recall and recount the difficult, frustrating, maddening things that happen all the time, I still revel in the sweet moments that make it all worthwhile. And for a book to sustain that exact feeling for 500 pages is quite a feat.
437 Oh dear heavens, a cow is having a difficult birth! A cat is sick! The local lord's thoroughbred has skinned its knee! To live in a world where these are your most worrisome worries is to live in the world of James Herriot, the pen name of Alf Wight, the real-life mid-20th century country vet of the Yorkshire Dales in northern England.

Having said that, Herriot's stories wouldn't be as ragingly popular as they have been if they were nothing but fluff. No, for a bunch of animal tales there's a great deal of pathos herein. Just about every story delves into the human condition as it pertains to the Dales farmers and their struggle to exist, never mind thrive, in the harsh conditions of not only weather, but the rapidly accelerating industrialization of farming. Mid-century small farms were feeling the pinch and Herriot captured the fight. He also mixes in the everyday strife of everyman in a very relatable way.

Loosely based on his experiences, these delightful tales (drama cozies I call them) take place in an idyllic setting: The Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors...

Muker in Swaledale

Addingham, west of Harrogate

The Cleveland Way near Wainstones

The story begins with Herriot as a newly graduated vet arriving at the home and veterinarian practice of Siegfried Farnon and his aloof, fun-loving brother Tristan, two eccentric fellows who provide a good deal of comic relief and storytelling foil. It's the 1930s and, although war is on the horizon, this first book in the series focuses on the not-so-tumultuous time prior, when an outbreak of animal contagion was the apex of concern. In general the tension for these anecdotal stories, all cobbled together into one loose narrative, is on the light side, unless you're an animal lover, in which case you will feel your heart ripped out and replenished again and again.

Though essentially a collection of short stories, All Creatures Great and Small does a great job of providing an intro into the world and character of Herriot, it delivers highly readable pastoral tales, and then it gives you a sense of closure without closing out the option for more stories to come. And boy are there more stories!

These stories will satisfy lovers of animals, animal husbandry, pre-WWII veterinarian practice (an industry in flux at the time), the English countryside and Yorkshire life specifically, as well as those looking for a light taste of pastoral humor. I liken reading Herriot to watching painter Bob Happy Little Trees Ross in action. It's soothing stuff.

PS: I enjoyed looking through pics of the Dales and Moors for this review so much that I'm going to add more. Let's call this the...

* * * PIX APPENDIX! * * *

Upper Swaledale

23 Kirkgate, Thirsk (Home and practice of James Herriot)

Goatland Railroad Station (used in the first Harry Potter movie)
437 I have this problem--an addiction, really--called BOOKS. I start reading one and I usually can't stop until I realize that awful smell is... ME!... or my kids do that incessant-tapping-on-my-shoulder thing to ask if dinnertime will be occurring before bedtime... (I know, I know. Probably shouldn't have put that in print. Now CPS is gonna come after me.)

Point being: This book was NOT like that. I could read one chapter each night, then put it down without my brain going all... twitchy (those of you fellow addicts know what I mean... you other better-adjusted readers, just take my word for it that twitchy is the perfect adjective). Could it be? A non-page-turner that I actually ENJOYED??? Why aren't there more books like this! I would be a much healthier person!

Herriot doesn't really have a through-plot (thus the non-page-turner quality), but each chapter presents a new, hilarious recollection from his young veterinary days in the Yorkshire countryside. You know, one of those horses lifting you off the ground with their teeth, removing pig testicles, becoming the honorary uncle of a rich lady's spoiled pug kind of reads. I must have laughed out loud at some point in every chapter. If you're looking for a fun little book that you can just pick up every once in a while that won't cause you to go all... twitchy... THIS IS IT! Just open the book and start reading anywhere! Read one chapter, five, the whole thing--doesn't matter. There's no real story... but you'll get a good laugh. Several, in fact. 437 4.5 stars. I adored this book and swallowed it whole when I first read it back in the day, and grabbed the three sequels as soon as I could lay my hands on them. All four of these old paperback books still have a place of honor on my downstairs bookshelf, wherein reside all manner of classics, old SF and fantasy, ancient English lit textbooks, and other old books. It's quite the massive collection - a lifetime's worth of books that have been lovingly and thoughtfully - or sometimes not - collected and have survived the periodic purges.

Anyway, James Herriott (a pseudonym of James Alf Wight) was a Yorkshire veterinarian whose practice began in the 1940s (before many advances in modern medicine). He wrote this hugely successful series of semi-autobiographical books about his many years of veterinary practice amongst the farmers and people of Yorkshire. His tales are very episodic, often self-deprecating, sometimes poignant, sometimes silly, but always humorously told and heartwarming. Herriott affectionately sketches the old Yorkshire personalities so well, and his love for animals shines through on the pages.

A truly delightful read! These are lovely stories, especially if you're an animal lover. 437 “I lay face down on the cobbled floor in a pool of nameless muck, my arm deep inside the straining cow, my feet scrabbling for a toe hold between the stones.”

James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, a veterinary surgeon who practiced in Yorkshire, England, for fifty years beginning in 1939. ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, an autobiographical collection of anecdotes drawn from his experiences in that practice, traces the author’s career from his uncertain arrival in Darrowby, a small town in the Yorkshire Dales, to his courtship and engagement with Helen Alderson, the lovely (and much sought after) daughter of one of his clients. Although Siegfried, the owner of the practice in which James will ultimately become a partner, and his ne’er-do-well younger brother, Tristan, take center stage with James in many of the stories, ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL is positively jammed front to back with a host of hilarious or dour, nefarious and sneaky, generous and loving, thrifty and skin-flinty, brilliant or unremittingly dopey, beer- and gin-soaked or tee-totaling, but in any event unforgettable and always entertaining characters who are certain to make this book one of the most enjoyable collection of stories that has ever graced your bookshelves.

“And the lambs. All young animals are appealing but the lamb has been given an unfair share of charm. The moments come back: of a bitterly cold evening when I had delivered twins on a wind-scoured hillside; the lambs shaking their heads convulsively and within minutes one of them struggling upright and making its way, unsteady, knock-kneed, towards the udder while the other followed resolutely on its knees.”

“The shepherd, his purpled, weather-roughened face almost hidden by the heavy coat which muffled him to his ears, gave a slow chuckle,
‘How the ‘ell do they know?’

So many adjectives come quickly to mind that one needs a dictionary or a thesaurus to begin to do justice to ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL – heartwarming or heartbreaking, evocative, instructive and educational, historically interesting, provocative, hilarious, uplifting, entertaining, joyous, informative and endlessly amusing. If this is your first venture into James Herriot’s adventures and misadventures, I envy you. You are definitely in for a treat.

Paul Weiss 437


free download ¾ eBook or Kindle ePUB é James Herriot