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The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father
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The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,538 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
With full access to his father's papers, correspondence, manuscripts, and photos, Wight has created a fitting and affectionate tribute to the well-loved vet and author of "All Creatures Great and Small". of photos.
Paperback, 371 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Ballantine Books (first published 1999)
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A glowing homage to the late great Alfred Wight (who penned the All Creatures Great and Small series under pseudonym of James Herriot) by his son and fellow veterinarian James Wight, while the author might not have the same power of penmanship that his father possessed, The Real James Herriot provides a sweet and loving human portrait, whilst also showing fans of the series instances and anecdotes not covered in the novels (about Alfred Wight's childhood and university studies, his parents and t ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
It was with hesitation that I purchased and eventually picked up this book to actually read. James Herriot is one of my favorite authors of all time. I grew up reading him in middle school, and he's my fall back author for when I'm feeling totally depressed and crapped out. So his books are very meaningful to me, and I was hesitant to discover any back story. This biography was written in chronological order by his son. It probably could have benefited from another format. When the author begins ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Brett rated it really liked it
Shelves: dead-tree, my-library
This book was a very interesting insight into the beloved author and "World's most famous vet". It seems Herriot was every bit as likable in reality as he seems to be in his famous semi-autobiographical books. Herriot's son, Jim Wight tells us proudly of Herriot's successes and unflinchingly of his struggles, which given his very private nature were often completely internalized. As a side bar it is also delightful to have some knowledge of the men on whom Tristan and Sigfried Farnon are based a ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
You think you know James Herriot by reading All Creatures Great and Small and all the other books he wrote, but, you haven't really known him until you see him through his son's eyes. Jim Wight has written a marvelous memoir of his dad.

If one can have said of himself that he refused to let fame go to his head, that his family was the most important thing he had, and that his love for his work showed in every word he wrote, he lived a good life. James Alfred Wight, James Herriot, lived a good li
Willa Grant
Aug 01, 2009 Willa Grant rated it did not like it
I wish I had not read this book. Not because it was not well written, though his son certainly lacks his father's flair, but because it was TMI. I had LOVED James Herriot's books, I read them again & again & laughed myself sick over them. The reality of the man's life was quite different. If you like and/or admire James Herriot's books I strongly urge you not to read this biography.
Dec 31, 2008 Luann rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: James Herriot fans
Jim Wight has written a moving tribute to his father, James Alfred Wight, known as James Herriot to millions of fans around the world. At times it felt too long and detailed, but then he would catch my interest again with a funny or interesting story that hadn't been shared in any of the James Herriot books.

In places it was quite reminiscent of the autobiographies of Dick Francis and Roald Dahl who shared some similar experiences - especially during the war. In fact, Dick Francis is mentioned s
Moses Operandi
Aug 07, 2008 Moses Operandi rated it really liked it
Shelves: readandenjoyed
Jim Wight tells his father's story with humor, compassion, and candor. Although I was mortified when I first learned that 'James Herriot' was not the real name of the author who had since childhood enthralled me with beautifully written stories of the strong bonds between the human and animal worlds, I realize now that this was a selfish attitude--I did not want 'James Herriot' to protect himself and his friends from the inevitable media coverage that resulted from his multi-million book sales, ...more
Jun 11, 2015 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I grew up reading and rereading James Herriot's books. Learning about the man behind the story from his son was great. Although Jim Wight is not the author his father was, he does a job that is just fine. We learn more about Alf (James Herriot's real name) and his life. We learn that the stories he wrote are based on real life, real character that Alf and the people around him knew and experienced. We learn that Alf's life was not always as great as he led us to believe. We learn about his journ ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Jane rated it it was amazing
have been a fan of James Herriott books all my life watch films, tv series and was saddened by Alf Wight death.
This book could onlty have been written by someone very close to him and was apt this was written by his son.
I was eager to read this and what a story, with so many surprises too, I always thought he was born in Glasgow but he was a macham (born in Sunderland) although he lived and studied in Glasgow.
The book fills in the gaps and gives the reader a greater understanding of this vet fi
♪ Kim
Jan 16, 2013 ♪ Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
This book is for anyone who has loved the All Creatures Great and Small stories by James Herriot (i.e. James Alfred "Alf" Wight). The biography is written by Wight’s son, who is also a veterinary surgeon. It tells of his father's childhood years, his training at the Veterinary College in Glasgow, and his partnership/friendship with the Sinclair brothers (aka Siegfried and Tristan Farnon). But the last third of the book was the most interesting to me because it describes Alf Wight's early attempt ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Alaine rated it it was ok
Got up to 32% of the way through when I quit. I thought the vet school stuff was rambly and took up too much time. We finally got to the "Darrowby" days and most of the stories were just slightly different versions of the fictionalized ones I already read in James Herriot's books. However, I did find out that Skeldale House was actually 23 Kirkgate, Thrisk, UK. That's probably not the correctly written address but it's enough to pull it up on Google Maps. That was more entertaining than the book ...more
Lisa Valeri
Feb 10, 2013 Lisa Valeri rated it it was ok
To compare and expect Jim to write like his father is an unfair expectation. Having said that, however, Mr. Herriot's son may have inherited his love and knowledge of veterinary science, he unfortunately did not pick up any of his (or anybody else's) writing skills. I was hoping for an interesting inside look at James Alfred Wight's real life, only to be muddled down in the younger Jim's heavy handed (though earnest attempt) at writing it. I made it about halfway through, reading passages that I ...more
Bob Anderson
Sep 14, 2015 Bob Anderson rated it really liked it
So the popular books by James Herriot, novels which told the story of a country veterinarian charting a course through the changing times of the modern world with humor and heart-felt passion, were in fact written by a man named James Alfred Wight. The exact nature of them had been questioned in the past: were they fully fictional beyond the grain of truth given by Herriot’s veterinary background, or did each story have authenticity of its own? This book, by Alf’s son, Jim Wight, attempts to dis ...more
Jun 06, 2015 Ariel rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, non-fic
I was curious to hear about the actual life of James Herriot (aka Alf Wight), a writer who has brought me so much pleasure over the years (as much for his poignant portraits of 1940s & '50s Yorkshire, a vanishing corner of the world, as for his funny anecdotes and wonderful depictions of animals). But his son really can't write for beans. It was amazing how refreshing it was to come upon long passages from Herriot's books, like little oases scattered in a desert of dull prose. The most grati ...more
May 03, 2015 Linore rated it it was amazing
For the James Herriot fan, this book is as good as it gets next to having another Herriot book. Written by the son of James Herriot, Jim Wight is not the writer his father was, but the stories in the book that run along the same vein are entertaining and informing; however, the book is a biography of James Herriot, not a memoir of the veterinary life; the few stories included are fun, but incidental.

I recommend reading at least one of the wonderful books by Herriot before reading this. Yes, you'
Dina Tanners
Jun 05, 2015 Dina Tanners rated it really liked it
I have been a fan of James Herriot's books for years so when I found this book in a library sale, I quickly bought it. I was not disappointed.

The author Jim Wight does not have the writing skills of his father, but it still is a compelling read.

James Herriot's real name is Alf Wight. He took the pseudonym from a soccer player (who played on a team he liked) as he wanted to stay as anonymous as possible.

In the book, I learned of his childhood, how hard his parents worked to assure that their onl
Nancy Dawe
Aug 19, 2012 Nancy Dawe rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book well captures the spirit of "The Real James Herriot," Alf Wight, in its humour and sentimentality. It was often hilarious, and offered a candid look into Mr. Wight's life as both vet and author. My only complaint is that some sentments were oft repeated creating a longer book than neccessary.
Nov 10, 2011 Judy rated it did not like it
I love the James Herriot books and have read all of them many times. I was very excited to read about the real James Herriot however I found the book poorly written. Jim Wight is not a talented and captivating writer as was his father.

Jan 10, 2013 Joe rated it liked it
Interesting information, just what I was looking for in that regard, but this is not a very well-written book. Could have used a ghost-writer and a good editor.
Jul 03, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it
There are two authors on the top of my personal favorites list. One is Sebastian Barry and the other is James Herriot. I devoured everything JH wrote in my younger years, so when we planned our four week return to England, I just had to visit his house/surgery in adorable Thirsk. It was such a moving experience for me. I was one of the Americans who loved his stories about animals and people with a passion. I laughed and cried my way through the books by this beloved writer. It's only fitting hi ...more
Dawn Rupert
Jun 18, 2015 Dawn Rupert rated it really liked it
My book club was reading "All Creatures Great and Small", and since I had read all the James Herriot books when they were initially printed, I chose to read the biography that his son James Wight wrote. Certainly the son shows the same talent for writing that his father did. This was a wonderful book about the famous author and the "real" people that he wrote of in his books. I am sure that anyone who has read the James Herriot books will equally enjoy learning about the real James Herriot or Al ...more
May 18, 2015 Amanda rated it liked it
I adored the James Herriot books, and though I know things in the real world don't usually wrap up with a happy ending I was disappointed that things ended the way they did for the characters in this book. I kind of wish I'd never read it. It left me sad, so totally different from the joyful emotion I experienced reading the original books. It wasn't a bad book, and I learned a lot about the real man, but it was such a clinical look at his life. It lacked a lot of the emotion and humor that were ...more
May 27, 2014 Lizzy rated it really liked it
James Wight is a good author - not great, like his father, but certainly good- and handles his father's life with care. It didn't come across as some sort of money-grubbing book to milk his father's fame, but as a sincere way to preserve his father's memory and show the world who is beloved father really was. He said that he never properly told his father how much he meant to him, and it seems like this book was made to make up for that.

While it was sad to see the darker sides of these beloved
Jun 01, 2012 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
This authorized biography by Jim Wight, son of James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pen name of James Herriot, is amazingly well written. Based on letters and records saved by the family over the years, it begins with the lives of Mr. Herriot's parents and concludes well after his death. Both the author of this book and his father, the author of the "All Creatures Great and Small" series are/were working veterinarians (not veterans, as my dental hygienist believed, when I told him they were " ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Oksana73 rated it it was amazing
Оказывается многие люди считали книги Джеймса Хэрриота полнейшей выдумкой. Я впала в другую крайность и думала, что все, описанное в его романах - правда, только правда и ничего кроме правды. истина, как всегда, оказалась где-то посередине. Все его романы - художественные, но основанные на вполне реальных событиях. Узнав это, я с двойным интересом начала читать биографию Джеймса Хэрриота - Альфреда Уайта, написанную его сыном. Это было путешествие в чужую жизнь, очень сложную, тяжелую, но неверо ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
This book bills itself, incorrectly, as a "memoir" of the man that the world knows as James Herriot. In actuality, I believe it should be labeled as a biography as it covers the man's lifespan from his birth and upbringing through his death. I picked this book because I like to read memoirs; biographies, not so much. Whatever the case, this book is about the life of Alf Wight, the man behind the famous James Herriot veterinary books. The book is written touchingly and lovingly by his son, who is ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Cathi rated it really liked it
About twenty years ago, I read all of the James Herriott books, and I can't even begin to describe how much I enjoyed them. I'm not much of an animal-lover, but the stories of Herriott's adventures as a young veterinarian in Yorkshire, England, absolutely delighted me in every way. So when I heard about this biography of James Alfred "Alf" Wight (Herriott's name in real life), I jumped at the chance to read it. It's a bit too detailed in some spots, but overall, I found it very enjoyable and inf ...more
Oct 26, 2014 Theresa rated it liked it
Boy, I really wanted to like this book. I loved all the James Herriot books, and maybe that's the problem - as his son attempts to write a complete biography of his father, he can't help but retell some of the information we already know from the Herriot books. I kept finding myself skipping over parts. I was also a bit discouraged when, by chapter 4, the young Alf Wight (James Herriot's real name) was just getting to veterinary school. I discovered that The Real James Herriot survives skipping ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Bjipson rated it liked it
Nice to get the real scoop on "James Herriot," although I was not surprised to read that he was as self-effacing, earnest, hard-working, family-loving as he comes across in his books. This is written by his son who became a vet and joined the practice with his father and "Siegfried." Definitely a book for the true fans of the Herriot books/tv series.
Oct 20, 2012 Justin rated it really liked it
James Alfred "Alf" Wight, or as knows him by his pen name, James Herriot, author of the highly popular series All Creatures Great and Small.

Shortly after his death in 1995 Alf's son Jim Wight, with encouragement by Alf's publisher wrote the story of his father, the worlds most well known and loved Veterinary Surgeon. It was fun to learn about the life of this author. I loved the All Creatures series and enjoyed learning about the man behind the pen name.

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