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Book: All Creatures Great and Small

July 12, 2011

I have a long history with this book. I first remember seeing it on our bookshelves at home, a ragged paperback copy. I think we had one or two other Herriot books as well. At some point in my childhood I made it a point to read most of the books we already owned so eventually I made it around to this one. I had no idea what it was about, but as soon as I started reading, I remember being astounded because here was this treasure trove of amazing, heartwarming, funny, sweet, sad, interesting stories that I had *no idea* lived in our house! They were here, all that time, and I had no idea! I quickly devoured all the books and read everything he ever wrote. Loved every single last story.

I found a copy of All Creatures Great and Small in the “free” box at the library the other day, so of course I had to grab it. I figured it was the perfect summer vacation book, plus it has a pleasant nostalgic connotation for me, so I started in right away and soon I was swept away to the hills of Yorkshire, the small village of Darrowby, and the adventures of James, Tristan and Seigfried as they perform the myriad duties of Country Veterinary Surgeon in the 1940s. These are undoubtably “animal stories” but the real characters are the eccentric Siegfried and his charming brother Tristan, and the country farmers of Yorkshire.

Oh, I love these stories. They are charming and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes sad, of course, but mostly truly fascinating and amusing. I worked for the the vet in our small town, and he did both companion animals and farm animals, so some of the stories about horses and cows felt familiar as I remembered our vet coming back from local farms with similar stories of calving, lame horses and quirky farmers. I loved working at the vet, although it made up my mind that I could never be a vet because it was so awful when the animals didn’t make it. I could barely stand it then, and I’m sure it wouldn’t get much easier. Still, I’ve always sort of played around with the idea of working with animals in some way (and I do). The Herriot books make that longing grow stronger, as they are so romantic and interesting. Who wouldn’t want to be a country vet in Yorkshire? Freezing blizzards and crusty old farmers and angry bulls, pah! Well, okay, maybe not, but I love reading about it.

My favorite character is the little dog, Tricky Woo. His mistress has spoiled him to near-death, producing in him such ailments as “flop-bott” and “crackerdog” — two terms which I have remembered all these years.

Anyway. I read this book leisurely all last week. I haven’t done much reading this vacation, just bits and pieces here and there. I guess I’ve been busy with projects or watching dog shows (a new obsession here). Still, whenever I picked up this book, I was instantly happy.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2011 12:18 pm

    Amazing how you can find some nuggets in the gravel – I picked up a copy of “Lighter than a feather,” by Westheimer, in an Indie book store off a table that said “buy 3 books – pick a freebee off this table.” It was better than the 3 I paid for. Woof Woof!

    • July 14, 2011 10:57 am

      Hi Sandy! (love your photo)
      Yes, I’ve read my “free” books before my “real” library books, and might not even read the books I got from the library!

  2. July 12, 2011 12:48 pm

    I love the television series that adapted these stories. They are so sweet and sentimental and the actors/actresses chosen are just perfect. Tricky Woo and his owner are particular favorites of ours as well.

    • July 12, 2011 1:36 pm

      I just started watching them. I think I’m going to love them!

      • July 12, 2011 1:40 pm

        I hope so. I love the relationship between James and Helen, especially in that first season. And although the actress who plays Helen isn’t perhaps society’s idea of a beauty (poo on them), I think she is a stunner.

        And inevitably I end up feeling choked up about something or other in each episode.

  3. trapunto permalink
    July 12, 2011 4:18 pm

    This is the same edition that was in our house when I was a kid! I love the way Tricky Woo’s mistress says “Flop Bott” in the series.

  4. July 13, 2011 8:27 am

    I read all the Herriot books when I was a teen and decided I wanted to be a vet. But then I found out what it was like to work at a vet in the city and having to put down animals and well, after that, an English major was born.

  5. July 17, 2011 9:36 am

    ive never read any of these books. im so behind!

    dog shows: love them. i am also supremely partial to the puppy bowl that is on animal planet when the super bowl is on. the kitty cat half time show is the best.

    • July 17, 2011 12:41 pm

      Oh, you would love these books. I’m sure you can find a copy at a thrift store anytime. Yes, we love Puppy Bowl too!!

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