All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Good morning, how are we all today? We have a lovely dewy morning here in North Yorkshire. The sun is out, it's chilly, but I've just been for a lovely walk with Hattie where the melting dew is making the grass look like swathes of green velvet. It is, to sum up, a beautiful morning. This week has been a busy and emotional one.
My colleague left her role on Wednesday. We had a lovely lunch together, and everyone was gathered for a brilliant speech which had everyone laughing and simultaneously wiping away a tear. I'm going to miss her lots, but we are having drinks tonight before she goes. Yay!
I've also been getting excited about some of the forthcoming releases about to hit the bookshelves soon. The publication date of the latest Richard Osman is hovering. (12 September I believe). I was also overjoyed to discover a brand new Jilly Cooper is to be published in November. Tackle! featuring Rupert Campbell-Black and set in the world of football. Jilly Cooper is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, but strangely I have not reviewed her books here. I can feel that changing soon!
I am also having my social media fields flooded with Christmas novels and I am excited! Especially as I have been lax on my #12booksofchristmas reading and am looking for inspiration. So far, I have one pick for you. eek! and am hoping this will soon be corrected.
Today's read is something I alluded to in an earlier post. Whilst celebrating our wedding anniversary, my husband and I visited Sutton Bank. This overlooks the Kilburn White Horse and is situated next to the Yorkshire Gliding Club. The views were christened 'The Finest in England' by today's author and having been there I heartily agree! It is of course James Herriot.
Jame's Herriot's warm and funny chronicle of a young vet beginning his career in the Yorkshire countryside nearly forty years ago, shines with the storytelling magic that has made him a favourite the world over.
First off, a quick note here - All Creatures Great and Small is the first James Herriot omnibus and features If Only they Could Talk and It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet as well as James and Helen's courtship from Let Sleeping Vets Lie. There are 2 more volumes All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.
Like many people of my age, I have a great fondness for the books of James Herriot thanks in part to the wonderful BBC TV series featuring Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy. This was shown on a Saturday night and was a staple of our household. It was gentle, funny and showed the beauty of Yorkshire at its green and wild best.
The book reads as a wonderful collection of short stories and anecdotes from a newly qualified vet in the 1930's in North Yorkshire...farming country, but with a whole host of small, domestic animals as well.
The charm of the stories is that James Herriot is content not to be the star of the show, but instead uses these stories to paint a portrait of the landscape, the incredible characters he meets, the Farnon brothers and of course the wonderful animals themselves. Each chapter chooses a theme, they payment of bills, the generosity of farmers, Tristan's dalliances with the ladies and Siegried's contrary ways and fleshes the topic out brilliantly.
Indeed Siegfried and Tristan feature throughout the book. Siegfried is outrageous at times, contrary, ebullient, but kind and with a particular fondness for horses. I remember reading a wonderful story once that a member of the public write to Alf Wight asking if he wasn't cross about Robert Hardy's 'over-the-top' portrayal of Siegfried, to which Alf replied that Hardy's performance was toned down significantly from the real Siegfried. Utterly charming and catnip to the ladies.
The animals and the people who own them and look after them are a delight to read. The most famous probably being Tricky-Woo, a rather spoilt, fat Pekingese and his owner Mrs Pumphrey. Tricky-Woo enjoys his visits from 'Uncle Herriot" and often sends him the most delicious hampers and invites him to lavish parties in Tricky-Woo's honour. But Tricky is beloved, not only by his owner, but the staff and 'Uncle Herriot' himself who fights a losing battle to slim Tricky down.
I get the impression that James Herriot was a humble and modest gentleman, and this shines throughout the book. There are stories that will make you chuckle and more poignant stories that will cause you to shed a tear. What is constant is the love of animals, nature and the countryside and a fondness for the characters that one may meet, who all love their animals.
This has been a wonderful re-read, I have savoured each word and story, and delighted in a landscape I am coming to know and love. It's a 5 star read for me!