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All Creatures Great and Small

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The warm and joyful memoirs of the world's most beloved animal doctor.

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.

442 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

James Herriot

272 books2,684 followers
James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, OBE, FRCVS also known as Alf Wight, an English veterinary surgeon and writer. Wight is best known for his semi-autobiographical stories, often referred to collectively as All Creatures Great and Small, a title used in some editions and in film and television adaptations.

In 1939, at the age of 23, he qualified as a veterinary surgeon with Glasgow Veterinary College. In January 1940, he took a brief job at a veterinary practice in Sunderland, but moved in July to work in a rural practice based in the town of Thirsk, Yorkshire, close to the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. The original practice is now a museum, "The World of James Herriot".

Wight intended for years to write a book, but with most of his time consumed by veterinary practice and family, his writing ambition went nowhere. Challenged by his wife, in 1966 (at the age of 50), he began writing. In 1969 Wight wrote If Only They Could Talk, the first of the now-famous series based on his life working as a vet and his training in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Owing in part to professional etiquette which at that time frowned on veterinary surgeons and other professionals from advertising their services, he took a pen name, choosing "James Herriot". If Only They Could Talk was published in the United Kingdom in 1970 by Michael Joseph Ltd, but sales were slow until Thomas McCormack, of St. Martin's Press in New York City, received a copy and arranged to have the first two books published as a single volume in the United States. The resulting book, titled All Creatures Great and Small, was an overnight success, spawning numerous sequels, movies, and a successful television adaptation.

In his books, Wight calls the town where he lives and works Darrowby, which he based largely on the towns of Thirsk and Sowerby. He also renamed Donald Sinclair and his brother Brian Sinclair as Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, respectively. Wight's books are only partially autobiographical. Many of the stories are only loosely based on real events or people, and thus can be considered primarily fiction.

The Herriot books are often described as "animal stories" (Wight himself was known to refer to them as his "little cat-and-dog stories"), and given that they are about the life of a country veterinarian, animals certainly play a significant role in most of the stories. Yet animals play a lesser, sometimes even a negligible role in many of Wight's tales: the overall theme of his stories is Yorkshire country life, with its people and their animals primary elements that provide its distinct character. Further, it is Wight's shrewd observations of persons, animals, and their close inter-relationship, which give his writing much of its savour. Wight was just as interested in their owners as he was in his patients, and his writing is, at root, an amiable but keen comment on the human condition. The Yorkshire animals provide the element of pain and drama; the role of their owners is to feel and express joy, sadness, sometimes triumph. The animal characters also prevent Wight's stories from becoming twee or melodramatic — animals, unlike some humans, do not pretend to be ailing, nor have they imaginary complaints and needless fears. Their ill-health is real, not the result of flaws in their character which they avoid mending. In an age of social uncertainties, when there seem to be no remedies for anything, Wight's stories of resolute grappling with mysterious bacterial foes or severe injuries have an almost heroic quality, giving the reader a sense of assurance, even hope. Best of all, James Herriot has an abundant humour about himself and his difficulties. He never feels superior to any living thing, and is ever eager to learn — about animal doctoring, and about his fellow human creature.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,565 reviews
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,228 followers
June 15, 2019
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)
Profile Image for Meg Sherman.
169 reviews426 followers
October 14, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Dale.
Author 28 books44 followers
January 14, 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.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,221 reviews169 followers
June 16, 2022
“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
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
October 11, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,057 reviews364 followers
June 18, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Caroline .
418 reviews574 followers
February 8, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,269 followers
December 30, 2020

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!
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,788 reviews36 followers
October 15, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,817 followers
November 15, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Karen.J..
214 reviews178 followers
January 5, 2022
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

I absolutely love all of James Herriot’s books! I have been listening to the audiobook of All Creatures Great and Small. A beautiful storyline of a veterinarian in Yorkshire England and all the trials, tribulations and amazing people he meets through his veterinarian care is very heartwarming.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,124 reviews104 followers
February 18, 2023
I have absolutely loved loved loved James Herriot's (or should I perhaps say Alfred Wight's) All Creatures Great and Small ever since I first read this book (which is actually an omnibus and consists of If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet) at the age of twelve (in the autumn of 1978, and thus, All Creatures Great ands Small was in fact one of the first longer novels I read entirely in English, with a dictionary in hand of course, and aside from my immense reading pleasure, I was also exceedingly proud of myself that in 1978, and therefore only two years after our family had immigrated to Canada from Germany, I was able to read a full-length English language novel and one not really conceptualised for children either entirely on my own). And yes indeed, I also have been reading and rereading All Creatures Great and Small, as well as the rest of James Herriot's veterinarian memoirs repeatedly and almost religiously over the past decades (at least twenty times, I think, and that is actually a more than conservative estimate at best, as sometimes, I would actually reread All Creatures Great and Small as soon as I had finished).

Now with regard to my multiple rereadings of All Creatures Great and Small and what I have tended to take with me at different times of my life, when I was first introduced to James Herriot at the age of twelve, my reading pleasure was almost entirely based on the engaging, often delightfully humorous but also at times sad and heartbreaking episodes of the author's experiences as a veterinarian (I laughed delightfully reading about Mrs. Prumphrey, her pampered and spoiled Pekinese Tricki Woo and later her piglet Nugent and how she calls the office in a panic when she thinks that young Nugent has a prostrate condition only to be told by James that all healthy male pigs relieve themselves in said manner, but was most definitely crying at the episode where poverty-stricken Mr. Dean's fourteen year old canine companion has to be euthanised and how old and widowed Mr. Dean in appreciation of the kindness shown by James, who not only is gentle and caring but also does not bother to charge Mr. Dean, gives James a treasured relict of a bygone and remembered celebration, gives him a cigar). But then later, as an older teenager and young adult (as a university student), while the animal episodes were of course and indeed still of the utmost importance (and a main reading joy), I now also very much appreciated the nuanced characterisation of the author, of how James Herriot portrays not only himself (and always with self deprecation and even much satirisation) but ALL of the human personages depicted and shown (from Siegfried and Tristan Farnon to the many clients encountered, and for most of them, except perhaps for the truly and utterly always horrible and nasty Sidlow family, James Herriot has presented his human characters both with much love and with gentle criticism, with both tenderness and humour, including his entire courtship with his future wife Helen, where he certainly does not spare his verbal rod criticising himself and pointing out the many courtship mistakes and faux pas he makes).

And well, as an older adult with several advanced literature degrees under my belt, my appreciation of All Creatures Great and Small and its sequels has indeed come full circle, as aside from the delightful animal episodes and the generally astute and oh so wonderful and engaging character portrayals, I have been noticing how James Herriot has also and equally taken the entire countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, and so glowingly has he described the latter that the Dales, that Yorkshire, are as much a character in James Herriot's memoirs as the animal and human personages presented and featured (but truly, while I might have only recently become fully linguistically and philosophically aware of this aspect of James Herriot's writing, this has in fact I strongly believe been part of my reading experience and joy from day one, as ever since I first read the All Creatures Great and Small books, I have desperately wanted to travel to England and see the Yorkshire Dales in person, and yes, reading James Herriot's descriptions of Yorkshire cooking has also made me both try and absolutely love such delicacies as Yorkshire Pudding and Wensleydale Cheese, and especially Yorkshire Pudding, I would never have likely had the opportunity to encounter otherwise, as my family is German, and my mother especially has always had that stereotypical and in my opinion annoyingly silly attitude that ALL British cooking is by its very nature bland, over-cooked and tasteless).

Highly, highly recommended (and while I guess I should leave the caveat that both smoking and drinking are indeed rather heavily featured in All Creatures Great and Small and its sequels, frankly, there is at least in my opinion, nothing even remotely inappropriate about this, and yes, it would be a total and unforgivable affront to me, if the James Herriot books were ever deliberately censored, if the scenes of drinking and/or smoking were ever to be unilaterally removed, as especially the smoking scenes are simply a historical reflection of time and place, and while especially with regard to young Tristan Farnon and even James Herriot on occasion, there are indeed a few choice episodes of drunkenness and over-indulgence, the vast majority of the All Creatures Great and Small pub scenes actually show and present rather glowingly and positively the perhaps for some North Americans somewhat inconvenient truth that in much of Europe, people do very regularly frequent neighbourhood pubs, but often if not even generally only drink one to three small ales at most, often taking hours to finish their pints, visiting pubs more for social engagement, for conversation and human company than for the purpose of getting drunk)
Profile Image for Philip Allan.
Author 12 books364 followers
January 13, 2021
This is the first omnibus edition of three covering the memoirs of James Herriot, a newly qualified Scottish vet who began practicing in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s and never left. It is a charming, self-deprecating and frequently funny read. It also opens a window into a lost world on the edge of change as agriculture moved steadily from a family concern, dominated by the horse, towards its more industrial future.

The main star of the piece is the landscape - the incomparably beautiful Dales, full of ancient habitations and fascinating people. The supporting cast is, of course, the animals that Herriot comes across in his working day. Great literature, this is not, although it is perfectly well written, but then it never pretends to be. What it is a series of amusing, occasionally poignant, doubtless embellished anecdotes. A few hours reading this book is like spending an evening in a pub with a skilled raconteur. Pull up a chair and enjoy.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,269 followers
December 4, 2020

‘If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.’

This is at least the third time I’ve read this memoir of the famous veterinarian, who began his life as a veterinarian in rural northern England’s Yorkshire, but this time I listened to the new audiobook, which was narrated by Nicholas Ralph, “star of the new Masterpiece series,” which I loved even more.

’No animal is a better judge of comfort than a cat and they were just visible as furry balls in the straw.’

I re-read this for the first time in many years last year, although I’d read it first when I was probably around 9 or 10, and then again as a teenager. Reading it always managed to pull me in and charm me, as Herriot has a way of bringing it all to life, but a life that isn’t easy, while still making it all seem wonderful, and even occasionally idyllic.

’Life was full for me. There were so many things to find out and a lot I had to prove to myself. The days were quick and challenging and they pressed on me with their very newness. But it all stopped here in the garden. Everything seemed to have stopped here a long time ago. I looked back before going through the door into the yard and it was like suddenly coming across a picture in an old book; the empty, wild garden and the tall, silent house beyond. I could never quite believe it was there and that I was a part of it.’

The narration by Nicholas Ralph made the story come alive even more for me, I was so fully immersed - when I managed to squeeze in time for listening to this. I think I had an almost continual smile on my face for the hours I was listening to him narrate this story, I never felt as though I was listening to a narrator tell another person’s story, I felt like I was hearing Herriot’s story directly from him.

’All young animals are appealing but the lamb has been given an unfair share of charm.’

Filled with humour and charm, Nicholas Ralph’s wonderful narration captured my attention and was a joy to listen to from start to finish.

Published: 17 Nov 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Macmillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
662 reviews
September 7, 2016
I've read a lot of James Herriot's stories over my life but haven't read this first volume of his beloved series of memoirs. It is delightful, touching and often knee-slappingly funny. I highly recommend it.
FYI: The audiorecording of the book is narrated by Christopher Timothy, the actor who played Herriot on the BBC series based on the books.
Profile Image for Natalia Luna.
268 reviews132 followers
November 17, 2020
Precioso. Pocos personajes me han transmitido tanta ternura como James. Lleno de momentos divertidos y tiernos... Libro favorito, sin duda.
Profile Image for Leila.
442 reviews209 followers
August 26, 2020
I think most members will know of James Herriot, even if they haven't read any of his books. I first read them all many years ago and delighted in the many ups and downs of a country vet's life back in the days before and after WWii. Then came the TV series followed by DVDs to collect. The name of James Herriot became a household name. His books were loved not just here in England but in many other countries also. James Herriot as a country vet, dealt with the local sick farm animals and also with a small animal practice too. His books contain many anecdotes not just with sick animals, but also his daily life living in the same house with his fellow vets, his boss Siegfried and Siegfried's younger brother Tristan. There are many humorous moments described in this book and all those that followed, but also some sad times too when all the skill in the world could not help the sick animals, a devastating blow to the farmers and private owners of the small animals, the dogs, cats and a varied selection of other pets. James Herriot had a unique talent to bring a warmth and delight to his readers in his many tales. He got into lots of scrapes too, often caused by young Tristan. Reading his books over the years brought me both laughter and sometimes tears. I so enjoyed re-reading this his very first book. I also purchased every DVD and enjoyed them all so much. Apparently a new series is about to be brought out soon on TV with new stars of course. Why do they have to do this? The original actors are stamped on the hearts and minds of the countless admirers of his work from all over the world. I really loved reading this, his first book yet again.

At this time Herriot's trainee Peter Wright is a practicing vet in the same town (Thirsk) Books and DVDs can be bought where interested people can read about and watch the modern day vet practices in Thirsk, carrying on the name of James Herriot whose real name was Alf White. The other Yorkshire Vet is Julian North who was originally Peter's partner but now practices in Boroughbridge with his wife, also a vet.
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,078 reviews244 followers
March 25, 2015
James Herriot's books are, for me, the ultimate in comfort books. Which is odd, it occurred to me while listening to this audiobook; there's blood and gore and uterine explorations and knackerings and death and cruelty… There is casual mention of deeds and practices which would turn PETA's collective hair white. But I've been reading these books since I was about ten. (Which, considering the language, is surprising. Them Yorkshire farmers were salty, mind.) And then there was the wonderful tv series.

That last is what made the audiobook ideal: the reader is Christopher Timothy, who played James in the series (alongside my beloved Peter Davison as Tristan). I think he's one of those I'll follow anywhere, listen to anything he reads. He's perfect. Not just because I know him so well in the role already – he is a warm, funny, compassionate reader, wonderful at the accents and natural in his delivery.

Just like Alf Wight, better known as James Herriot. The things I mentioned before – well, they were simply a part of life on a Yorkshire farm, in a Yorkshire veterinary practice in the first half of the 20th century. It was as it was, there were no better treatments than some of the medieval remedies used, and for the most part animals were well kept because they were vital to the livelihood of their owners. There is a surprising lack of sentiment overall, whether the animal in question is a pig or a puppy, a horse or a heifer.

Which isn't to say the stories are strictly cool and clinical – not by a long mark. Tricki Woo is the perfect embodiment of the series as a whole. The pampered Pekingese "son" of a rich widow, he is a good-natured little furball whose ailments tend to stem mainly from that pampering. And when he goes flop-bott or shows other symptoms which alarm his Mrs. Pumphrey, "Uncle Herriot" is summoned on to the scene at once. The reward for James's promptitude is baskets from London at Christmas (I can't even fathom how expensive that would be, sent all the way to the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930's) along with other periodic delicacies – so James, naturally, has a mercenary fondness for the Peke. But he is also genuinely fond of the dog for his own self, as a personality, and of Mrs. Pumphrey as well. And balancing it all out like a splash of lemon juice is Mrs. Pumphrey's chauffeur, responsible for the spasmodic bouts of exercise she penitently orders, along with the role of body servant to the dog, and he loathes Tricki with a deep and burning passion. (And when the pig Nugent comes along, there is much hilarity.)

So, yes, there is some cringing as we visit the knacker's yard, or when some archaic remedy is brought out. But it merely acts in the same lemon juice fashion on the warmth found in the daily interactions with the farmers and peers and kids with their goldfish, the dogs and cats and horses and pigs and cows and sheep, the slowly disappearing way of life of the Dales farmers. The madness that is the Farnon brothers; the surely-hopeless love James has for a client's daughter – eccentric as it all can be, it still rings true, and that's the key. The book is, to co-opt what they might say about a particularly nice cob, as sound as a bell.

So, whether it should be a comfort book or not, it got me through a particularly bad night recently. The very definition of a comfort book. I love these stories.
April 14, 2009
As a future veterinarian growing up, I was told by many people to read this book. It is apparently considered a rite of passage for those who want to enter the veterinary field. Finally I did read it when I was in my junior year of college before vet school. It was wonderful. Herriot is a hilarious,heart-warming and talented author. He writes with an ease that is addictive to read. He manages to imbue every chapter with scenes that are laugh out loud funny, but also scenes that will bring tears to your eyes. He shows the foibles and flaws of human nature with a lovable grace that is endearing.

Although I didn't practice in Europe and I wasn't a mixed practitioner, he captured the first year out very well. You are clueless. You know just enough to know you need to learn more. You have to learn to deal with people before you can help animals. You have to learn to trust your abilities and your skills. You have learn to grieve for the ones you lose but keep fighting the good fight. Let me just say, looking back, I can totally identify with the young vet in this book.

You do not have to be a vet or wannabe vet to enjoy this book. If you like slice of life books, or books about people in everyday situations but approaching life with grace and humor, you will love this book. If you like animals, you will also enjoy this book. I have collected the others in the series to read because I want to read more about this character, patterned after Dr. Herriot himself.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
725 reviews491 followers
November 22, 2019
Each chapter outlines an interesting event in this man's life as a rookie vet. Living on a farm all my life, I found this book quite entertaining as well as somewhat educational!
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,212 reviews132 followers
March 2, 2022
Read this as a teenager about the time they developed the PBS series (the first one, not the current one— I’m old!!)

There's one pet tale that can still bring a chuckle (no spoiler but "breaking wind" is involved--I did mention I was a teen when I read this). Not bad for a book I read 30 years ago.

If you own a pet or animals have a special place in your heart, than this gentle, charming and sometimes laugh out loud funny book is a must read!
Profile Image for Stephen Franks.
Author 1 book49 followers
April 19, 2021
Marvellous gritty and yet gentle tale of a vet's life in a countryside that is as alien to him as another planet. Herriot's descriptions of the bucolic charm of the Yorkshire dales, farmers and old ladies with yappy dogs is second to none. He makes the landscape, people and animals come alive and describes in some gut-wrenching scenes, their losses too. It's about time I revisited this series of books!
Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews474 followers
January 9, 2021
I have loved the stories by James Herriot since I first started reading them in middle school. I enjoyed the television show as well back in the day. I'm delighted that Masterpiece is starting a new series on January 10, 2021. I bought season one online immediately and will enjoy each episode as it posts each week.

I decided before watching the series I needed to revisit the books as well. My reading plan for 2021 did not involve a jaunt into James Herriot, but that's the joy of my "I read what I want'' pledge. Reading plan be damned -- I'm going to listen to James Herriot! :) I'm so glad I did! The new audio book series is narrated by Nicholas Ralph who plays James Herriot in the new series. He's scottish...so his accent is just lovely! He does a great job of bringing the story to life. Excellent job of narration! I can't wait to watch the television series, but I'm having a wonderful time listening to the books. Herriot tells the tale of his start in veterinary medicine in 1937. The economy was depressed and new veterinarians were having trouble finding jobs. Herriot paints a vivid picture of the stress and trials of being a new vet in a country area where they rely on the "old ways'' and are wary of new people and modern medical procedures and medications.

As I have spent the last few years revisiting books and series I loved in the past, sometimes stories hit me differently as an adult after first reading them as a child or teenager. But, Herriot's books are still as magical and lovely to me now as they were 40 years ago when I first read them at 12 years old.

There are two audio books in the series recorded by Nicholas Ralph so far. I hope he does the entire series. I listened to a review copy from Macmillan Audio, but I'm buying my own copy. This is an audio book that I will listen to over and over again. Delightful story!

**I voluntarily listened to a review copy of this audio book from Macmillan Audio. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
June 23, 2018
I'm so glad to have discovered this classic on audio from OverDrive because its size may have scared me off otherwise. James Herriot is a wonderful story teller. A delightful true tale of James' beginnings as a veterinary surgeon in Yorkshire in the 1930s. His doubts about his early abilities, his probably bi-polar boss, and the antics of the boss' brother and the other citizens provide a lot of comic relief. The many farm animals he treated in addition to a few dogs were funny as well as heartwarming.

I would estimate that about 80% of these stories involved cows or horses giving birth, and what stories they are. I never knew how complicated calving can be. Did James know during his studies how often his arms would be shoved up into a cow's hinter regions? Surely not.

The human, small town stories were insightful and warm. He had quite a way with both animals and people.
Profile Image for Gily.
202 reviews2 followers
November 20, 2021
Woderful. read it again the 10th time? still make me laugh out load
Profile Image for Citlalli.
101 reviews29 followers
December 29, 2021

En esta época navideña quería leer un libro bonito, de esos que te dejan un buen sabor de boca y una sonrisa en el rostro, y creo que este libro fue la elección ideal. En él conocemos a James, recién graduado de la facultad de veterinaria y que acaba de encontrar trabajo como asistente de un veterinario rural en Darrowby, Yorkshire.

El libro se conforma de capítulos cortos en los que James nos cuenta sus aventuras y desventuras durante el ejercicio de su oficio; así, lo acompañamos a curar cólicos, fiebres, a asistir a partos, a realizar vacunaciones, castraciones, etc. Por supuesto que hay algunos capítulos con un final triste, pero en general el sentimiento que transmite el libro es de optimismo y de amor por la naturaleza y los animales.

Aunque me encanta leer thrillers disfruté mucho de esta lectura y me resultó muy refrescante leer algo que no envolviera asesinatos o violencia. La historia además tiene muchas anécdotas graciosas, que te hacen reír a carcajada abierta.

En pocas palabras lo recomiendo mucho para esos momentos en que necesitamos leer algo sencillo que nos haga sentir tranquilos y recordar que lo más simple es muy a menudo lo más valioso en la vida.
Profile Image for Kate.
559 reviews76 followers
July 21, 2020
This book, the first in a series of memoirs by a Yorkshire country vet, is one of my favorite books ever. I read the whole set repeatedly throughout my childhood and, even now, I reread them every year or two. They are amazing, and this one is on sale for Kindle right now at $1.99. If you've never read James Herriot, please, please get a copy and try it on. It's the perfect thing for any animal lover. Get a copy here.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
March 17, 2021

This classic is timeless to me. I believe this is my third time experiencing it. When it was initially released, my mother would read a chapter during dinner meal. As our family were animal lovers and my mother was of English heritage, we all found it quite amusing. My favorite part was learning about farm animals and of course the chapters on dogs. Later at age 13?, I read it myself and related much more to the friendships highlighted in the story. This time around, I won a copy from Goodreads, but my stalkers stole it after I'd only read 30 pages or so, so I borrowed the Audio CD from my library so I could be faithful to write an updated review.

James Herriot was a gifted writer. His experiences that I would have found frightfully frustrating are conveyed in such a manner is to highlight the peculiarities of old time farmers in an isolated part of Yorkshire England (Darrowby). His boss/housemate included Sigfried and his brother, Tristan. Sigfried is rather narcissist and inattentive leaving James in some bad spots due to his irresponsible behavior. Tristan is not narcissistic but a player and also very irresponsible. Tristan's worldliness often leads James to make poor decisions but ultimately James learns this and operates effectively despite the malfunctions and behaviors of these brothers.

There is a lot of discussions of injuries and birthing particularly relating to cows as this region is home to dairies and butchers. He does manage to incorporate stories on dogs my favorite was Trickie Woo. An overweight, heavily indulged Pekinese owned by a very wealthy elderly widow with a keen affection. Trickie is spoiled and given food made by chefs that sounds so appealing your mouth waters. Unfortunately, Trickie would have to go to the hospital for two week periods where he ran with James and Sigfried's dogs and eat very limited amounts of dog food so he could trim down. Trickie was very generous to James, sending him food baskets with delicacies on holidays, letters and postcards when he traveled and other special occasions. I found these stories particularly entertaining.

What memoir would be complete without some romance thrown in? James mentions dates that failed with amazing humility and humor. One specific event where he wore an old suit to a fine restaurant had me laughing almost to tears (not good while driving). Eventually, he finds the one but it sure took him a while to make a move, ultimately, things turned out for him but he lack of aggression was surprising. It is so refreshing to hear how people once behaved especially the conduct of single men and women. Of course, not everyone was as somber as James, so their actions tend to highlight his shyness even more. I am so glad I invested the time to revisit this tale of life in remote England during the Depression. People didn't have much but they were gracious with what they had.
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