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Thursday Book Review; All Creatures Great and Small

The titles of the series by James Herriot was derived from a hymn by Mrs. Cecil Alexander, which ran: “All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All.”

The first book in the series is “All Creatures Great and Small.”

All Creatures opens in the late 1930s where James Herriot, a newly made Veterinarian from Scotland is traveling to a small town [fictional Darroby] in North Yorkshire for a job interview. As can be expected, and knowing the Depression was only beginning to ebb, getting work in such a career was not easy. Herriot worries that his potential boss, Sigfried Farnon, is a loud suspicious German who will bully and abuse him. Not the case. Siegried is named such because his father was a Wagner fan. Farnon turns out to be quite an affable country Englishman who recently bought the surgery and needs assistance. Herriot gets the job.

Training in Edinburgh did not prepare Herriot for the rigors of large animal practice. Tractors and heavy machinery have not completely replaced the heavy cart horse and livestock’s needs have always been the same. Only the medicines will change. James finds himself rolling around on filthy barn floors with his hands slid inside a variety of animals’ orifices. Cold and dirty work which always seems to occur in the middle of the night.

Still, the absolute beauty of the countryside wins him over and he falls in love with the town, farms and people of Darrowby. His stories resound with his awe of the mountains as he takes small breaks on his rounds to wonder at the scenery. The farmers are, as people are all over, a mix of taciturn to companionable and most are generous and welcoming to the new vet. Many times he finds a rasher of bacon or freshly made bread from the struggling farmers sitting on the passenger seat as he leaves.

James Herriot’s books are a joy and open window into a people and lifestyle that I hope has not completely disappeared.

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