Series – All Creatures Great and Small
Book number – 4
Number of pages – 252
Original publication date – 1974
Genre – memoir/autobiographical fiction
Average Goodreads rating – 4.28
As with the previous three books, we’re following the life of veterinary surgeon James Herrior, aka Alf J Wright, as he travels round the Yorkshire Dales, treating all the animals in the district. But this time, it is not all happy and full of nostalgia for a simpler age. We are on the brink of the Second World War, and all the stories are leading up to the point where he leaves his small town of Darrowby and heads to London to join the RAF. Nonetheless, we are still met with the charm, warmth, and classic wit that James Herriot is known for and all together it makes for a very light and cosy read.
Some of his cases include: Percy the terrier with a personal affliction, the slightly intimidating Clancy the Irish Wolfhound, and Prudence the pig who has a fondness for digestive biscuits.
Not forgetting of course that James has a few other challenges of his own when he meets with a colleague who has a fondness for alcohol, and decides to play cricket in a local match.
It sounds like the classic James Herriot but I have to be honest, this book is my least favourite in the series so far and I think it is the weakest. The storytelling is still fantastic, it hints at the social changes at that time, the writing remains fluid and transitions nicely, and I devoured it quite quickly but there are a couple of little bits here and there that don’t sit well with me:
1# The couple of sentences on one of the first few pages explaining the book’s subject and journey. I can understand why he wrote them but they seem clumsy and their location throws off the initial smoothness of the writing. To me it reads as if it has been cut and then pasted in the wrong location. I’d rather he had put those sentences right at the beginning of the book where he could quickly mention signing up for the war and then have a fluid transition into his different stories.
2# Any story pertaining to James’ encounter with colleague Granville Bennet and his constant inebriation whenever he’s in Granville’s presence. When I first read the books and watched the BBC adaptation, I liked the humour in these tales. I saw a different side to James that I hadn’t seen before and it was fun. However re-reading these with a more adult eye and keeping my own personal preferences regarding alcohol in mind, I find these moments very uneasy, cringe-worthy, and a tad overdone, especially on screen. I ended up skim reading the first story with Granville and completely skipped the second one altogether. I do this with the show as well when those moments come up and it’s not necessarily an issue but I do find it annoying.
However, what these moments, and ultimately a couple of others, achieve is letting audiences see that James is flawed and human. It’s nice to read because the last thing we want is a character that is perfect.
3# The lack of Siegfried and Tristan. They are still in the book but as we tend to focus more on James, Helen, and the animals, the Farnon brothers only seem to have a few passing scenes here and there. I’m not too bothered by it but it would have been nice to see them once in a while.
Putting my preferences aside, this book is still a solid instalment in a well-loved series. Perfect for anyone who wants a cosy read by a roaring fire.
My rating – 3 out of 5 stars.
Have you read this and the series?
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading and have a good day!