Book Review: All Creatures Great and Small

Rating: ★★★★★

All Creatures Great and Small opens an unforgettable series of personal memoirs by a country veterinarian in 1940′s Yorkshire (also known as James Alfred Wight).  These are written in a series of short chapter vignettes, with a warm, wry humor that vividly, affectionately, and sometimes mercilessly captures human nature in the context of this cultural scene.  Many descriptions are laugh-out-loud hilarious, and will be spontaneously read aloud to the nearest listener.  But Herriot is no cynic — his writing pokes fun at himself at least as often as others, and his self-deprecating wit provides an appeal that is near irresistible.  This first book in the series follows Herriot’s starting-out years as a vet, his induction into Siegfried Farnon’s local practice, his adjustment to the local ways and customs, and his courtship of the lovely Helen Alderson.

A country vet’s life involves a lot of bloody and sometimes gross work, which will appeal to some readers and may repel others.  There is an obvious appeal for animal lovers and potential medical students, as he treats both pets and farm animals, and Herriot sets a good moral example through his kindhearted willingness to undergo inconvenience and indignity for the sake of the animals under his care.  Implicit throughout his books is the belief that humans have a responsibility to provide good care to the animals who serve them.

In his portrayal of his Yorkshire clients, he attempts to capture the flavor of their speech, and this does include some profanities.  The words “bloody,” “hell,” and “bugger” appear fairly frequently, but there are few American swear words.  Parents ought to use discretion, but I don’t think this element should not be too harmful for mature readers.

Because some of the humor is rather sophisticated and Herriot’s prose is sometimes difficult, I recommend this for ages 16-18, but if enjoyed with a parent it is quite likely to appeal to younger readers, especially those who have enjoyed Herriot’s Treasury for Children.

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Publication Information: Herriot, James. All Creatures Great and Small. James Herriot; St. Martin's Griffin. 1972. ISBN: 0312330855.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 16-18, Book Tree,, World Nifty 50
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Posted on September 7, 2009

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