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If Only They Could Talk

(All Creatures Great and Small #1)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  4,815 ratings  ·  203 reviews
To young James Herriot, fresh out of veterinary college, Yorkshire appears to offer an idyllic pocket of rural life in a rapidly changing world. But even life in the sleepy village of Darrowby has its challenges: from his new colleagues, brothers Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, to herds of semi-feral cattle and gruff farmers with incomprehensible accents. Heart-breaking and ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Macmillan Collector's Library (first published 1970)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  4,815 ratings  ·  203 reviews

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Pramod Nair
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Alfred Wight, the British veterinary surgeon and writer, is renowned for his semi-autobiographical works written under the name 'James Herriot', which chronicle some of the most amusing moments from his life as a veterinarian. His reminiscences as a surgeon are pleasantly mild and warm to read and his style of narration that describe his adventures with the animals and their owners is of the most hilarious form that can make even the most serious of the reader burst out in a laugh. Apart from being incredibly entertaining, Herriot'James ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-read
Arriving in the small Yorkshire village of Darrowby newly qualified veterinary surgeon, James Herriot has no idea what is in store for him. Having only been qualified for the last seven months, James knew it wouldn't be easy, but he was up to the challenge or so he believed.

James quickly learnt that dealing with animals was sometimes easier than dealing with people, especially farming people who were used to doing things their own way. Unfortunately the textbooks never told you about the long h
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me cry. I had a hard time catching my breath. It was so damn funny. It was also poignant. I love the time period - 1930s - and the locale - York. This took me forever to read. It's basically vignettes so I'd read one story and set the book down for a week. But I prefer to think of it as savoring. It was so good, and extremely well written. The humor sprung up naturally from the situations and never seemed forced. I really can't recommend this enough. I know, I know, I'm late to th ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, england
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love animals. What many may not know is how author James Herriot's books inspired me to be a veterinarian. As a child, the answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up" was always "a vet."

While that childhood dream did not come true, I have never lost the fondness for Herriot's work. So, when this book turned up on our office swap shelf, I nabbed it.

"If Only They Could Talk" is a UK-issued book consisting of selected stories from All Cre
Judith Johnson
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ineffable joy! Beautifully-written, lots of laugh out loud moments, stories of the author's first year of practice as a newly-qualified vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Set in the late 1930s, dark times in many ways with the Second World War brewing, but greatly comforting in the humour and shared humanity shown. I was talking to someone yesterday and she told me she often went back to Herriot's books in difficult times. I see from my name and date bought on the flyleaf that I first read these 40 yea ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So where do I start?

James Herriot, or in truth, James Alfred Wright, is a master storyteller, whose ability to paint scenes and emotions with only his words is truly astounding. How anyone can write so elegantly, and truthfully, is a rare and astonishing thing. His memoirs should truly be cherished, this first book setting an excellent scene for many humorous and poignant works.

However, when asked what i was reading by the many people who always strive for conversation wh
This had me guffawing with laughter in places. Such a warm and cosy read too - in spite of the often harsh life being described (it was freezing up on the Yorkshire moors in winter).

What an endearing bunch of characters. It was a bedtime read, and I realised that every night I was looking forward to going to bed, just so I could read some more....

A pretty funny account of the life of a young vet in Yorkshire, with interesting characters, both animal and human.
It was a really hard world, before antibiotics and modern medicines, out in the freezing countryside at all hours, but he was content with that life, and that comes through his writing.
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, re-reading
As charming as I remembered it, and very interesting. Warm and perfect for out-loud reading with family. Took us a good while to get to the end, but the time was well-spent.
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Only They Could Talk is a memoir of sorts chronicling James Herriot's first year in a veterinarian practice in the small English town of Darrowby. Composed of short accounts of day-to-day life in the practice, each story draws you further into the lives of James Herriot, his employer Siegfried Farnon, and Siegfried's brother Tristan.

I still remember watching All Creatures Great and Small on VHS with my parents, and this book gives off the same sense of nostalgia. If Only They Could Talk is lighthearted/>

Eileen Monroe
I loved James Herriott's books when I was a kid... he was one of the reasons I always wanted to be a vet...
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
I originally picked this up because of the interesting blurb and the compact size of my edition.

I have never heard of this book or the author not have seen the inspired TV series by it.

Each chapter has the story of one of his Many adventures.

No matter how sad or heartbreaking the tale is , his tone is hilariously funny.

His depiction of the times at Yorkshire will leave the reader with warm feelings of nostalgia.

It was a book to rea
What it is:
A blue-collar charm autobiography by a guy who 'lucked out' by landing a veterinarian job straight out of school during the Great Depression.

Who should read it:
Lovers of Bill Bryson, for one. Really, if you love animals, or love the folksy narrator thing, this book is for you.

Strengths: Pacing, Variety of Tales, Humour/Gravity Balance, Characterization

Rating: 4 out of 5. This is a nice, quick, enjoyable read, though it will also have you looking to the dictionary often.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was delightful! I had heard of this book series and its television counterpart "All Creatures Great and Small," but knew little of the content. It ended up being a collection of fascinating anecdotes told with warmth and humor. I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading the other seven in the series.
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Lovely, funny and touching. And the sheep. Oh the sheep.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a nice read. Good for reading aloud, though some of the different accents can be challenging!
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
What a wonderful trip down memory lane this book was. I remember watching the TV series back in the 70's and 80's and picking this book up for the first time was like settling down by the fire with old friends.

Set in the Yorkshire Dales, this is the first book in a series by rookie vet James Herriot and his new life in the countryside and among the animals and his struggle to win over the old Yorkshire farmers and eccentric characters he meets there. There were so many times when I literally la
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: animal lovers,readers wanting laughter (& tears) from a book
Shelves: all-time-faves
Loved all the James Herriot books. My parents began to read them when I was maybe 10 or so and they would laugh out loud but I was far too cool to read what my parents did until one day I had a miserable toothache/earache and to take my mind off it I began to read one of this series of books. I too ended up laughing and simply being transported away to a different time, yet with places that seemed comfortingly familiar. (I'm from Yorkshire originally and was living there at this time.) I wrote m ...more
Gareth Evans
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in my early teens around the time of the great Herriot boom; a very popular TV series, 3 feature films and parts of North Yorkshire branding themselves as 'Herriot Country'. I had fond memories of the books and the TV series and, in rereading one of the books, was worried that I would view it as sentimental and facile. However, the Herriot industry was started because the books are well written and not overly sentimental. Herriot is a clever writer, clear and direct and ca ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now this was a thoroughly enjoyable little book. It was quickly read - in less than a day - but every vanilla-scented, yellowed paperback page was a sheer delight to turn. It now seems odd that it would have taken me this long to acquaint myself with James Herriot (nom de plume), but perhaps this was just the right time in life to take up the acquaintance after all. Having driven up and down the same precarious roads that he lurches along, looked up at the same balding fells and travelled parall ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The genial misadventures of James Herriot, a young vet in the lovely Yorkshire Dales, are enough to make a cat laugh -- let alone the animals, if only they6 could talk."
~~back cover

Lovely vignettes that cover the author's beginnings as a vet, and the joys, trials and tribulations of being a vet in the vast reaches of the Yorkshire Dales, with the stolid, hard-working, no nonsense farmers as customers.
Malcolm Cox
No so much a story as a series of anecdotal tales. Each chapter focuses on one of Herriot’s experiences either with the animals, the farmers, the locals or with the vet in charge. They are informative and for the most part humorous. This was quite the eye opener on just how different life is now compared with seventy years ago.
David Douglas
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, read this as a teenager years ago. Just as good second time round.
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved animals all my life. Read it as a child. Got it from my mom. For every generation...
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad that I already wanted to be a small animal vet, because I am not at all down to birth a calf in the middle of the night in a dirty barn.
Nov 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: animal lovers
Recommended to Miranda by: English Teacher
Shelves: animal
I had to read one of James Herriot's books for a book report. I ended up devouring every single one of his books in a matter of 2-3 days when I was 17. My English teacher was very impressed.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reading
I first read this years ago as a teenager, but now with a teenage daughter aspiring to apply to vet school, I wanted to revisit it.

Quite often when you re-read an old favourite it's a disappointment, but not this. I have to say I've enjoyed it more this time, maybe because I also have dogs so am more familiar with the vet world, but also with the advent of excellent tv programmes such as The Yorkshire Vet and The Supervet, creating a national interest and buzz around their work.
Brian Janz
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With much reluctance, and after what had to be five years of my friends begging me to read James Herriot, I finally picked up this book and subsequently refused to put it down until I was finished. He writes about his life working with various country animals, sure, but really the stories are just as much as the larger-than-life country folks that live in Darrowby. It's clever, it's light, it's fun, it's a genuine pleasure to read. Herriot is as wonderful a writer as he was a veterinarian and re ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
I was reminded about the James Herriot books a couple of months ago while watching a lamb being wrestled out of a sheep by a farmer. I think I probably read all of them in my youth, and definitely remember watching Christopher Timothy soaping up on a Sunday evening. So when I found this in a train station waiting room yesterday I was very pleased. And I wasn't disappointed; Herriot writes warmly and engagingly and while I'm sure characters and situations are exaggerated it doesn't matter as ever ...more
Not quite a 4 star but closer to a 4 than a 3.
This is a memoir of a newly educated Vet who gets his first job in a rural part of Yorkshire.
There are colourful people and exciting cases.

I found the writing where the people spoke dialect was hard to read/understand so I had to do some guesswork which made it a slower read for me. Still really enjoyed the book.
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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

Other books in the series

All Creatures Great and Small (8 books)
  • It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet
  • Let Sleeping Vets Lie
  • Vet in Harness
  • Vets Might Fly
  • Vet in a Spin
  • The Lord God Made Them All
  • Every Living Thing  (All Creatures Great and Small, #5)
“My mind went back to that picture in the obstetrics book. A cow standing in the middle of a gleaming floor while a sleek veterinary surgeon in a spotless parturition overall inserted his arm to a polite distance. He was relaxed and smiling, the farmer and his helpers were smiling, even the cow was smiling. There was no dirt or blood or sweat anywhere.
That man in the picture had just finished an excellent lunch and had moved next door to do a bit of calving just for the sheer pleasure of it, as a kind of dessert. He hadn't crawled shivering from his bed at two o'clock in the morning and bumped over twelve miles of frozen snow, staring sleepily ahead till the lonely farm showed in the headlights. He hadn't climbed half a mile of white fell-side to the doorless barn where his patient lay.”
“He devoted a considerable amount of his acute intelligence to the cause of doing as little as possible.” 5 likes
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