Dale's Reviews > All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
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's review
Jan 08, 2008

really liked it
Read in January, 2008

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.
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06/06/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Fay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fay Do treat yourself. Our daughter is a vet and we've read every line that "James" ever wrote ... worth it!

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