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Dor Does Books

Oh, hai! I read books, then I write down what I think of them. 



Read This. Read This Now - All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriot

All Creatures Great and Small: The Classic Memoirs of a Yorkshire Country Vet - James Herriot

This isn't a review because it is beyond my ability to review this book. James Herriot was one of *the* authors of my teen years thanks to a second-hand bookstall and my Mammy's never ending enthusiasm for providing me with stuff she thinks I need in my life. On this matter, she was right.


First published in the 70's, All Creatures Great And Small is the omnibus edition of the first two of James Herriot's books (It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet, and If Only They Could Talk) plus the chapters concerning his marriage from the third, Let Sleeping Vets Lie. They cover his first few years as a practising vet in late 30's Yorkshire, a time before antibiotics, or in fact anything which would do much good. 


Everything I learned about humorous prose, I learned here. As James' boss, Siegfried, tells him, Veterinary work offers unrivalled opportunities for making an almighty chump of oneself and Herriot tells every story against himself with wit and good humour. Whether he's making an almighty cock-up, suffering the enthusiasm of his boss, or trying to impress a young lady, he is brilliant, writing himself as the butt of every joke.


And he's not just funny, he's fascinating - assuming you are indeed fascinated by bovine maternity; he spends an awful lot of time doing intimate things to cows. I feel fully equipped to run over the road with some hot water, soap, and a towel, and getting stuck in.


But he can also do the sad bits. He doesn't shy away from the harshness of the farming life. These early books are devoid of the deep naffness which characterises the final book, Every Living Thing (which I believe was written due to popular demand after the success of the TV series, so I'll let it off. Slightly). He's trying to cure stock animals which are the difference of a family's survival, and very often with barely anything to do it with. Half a pound of Epsom Salts. 


The worst I can say about these books is that they have some language considered acceptable at the time, but which may raise the modern eyebrow and, as one might expect, the attitudes can be somewhat old fashioned. Purists may also like to level complaints about the authenticity of the work (there are a few biographies of the "real" James Herriot if you're interested) but that doesn't bother me in the slightest: they're great stories and if you've never read them, you simply *must*. 


I will freely admit to having biases in my scores and this one is getting the advantage of a lifelong love. It is the bookish equivalent of rice pudding: 5 stars.