I needed a break from Middle Earth, so figured some nice calming tales of bucolic life in Depression-era Great Britain would be just the thing.
It turns out this book is not really a novel at all, rather a collection of some 67 or so vignettes from James Herriot's early days practicing veterinary medicine in the Yorkshire Dales. Basically, it's a book of short stories. You can pretty much open it at any chapter and read away. You will miss little in not having read previous chapters. There are a few exceptions, but not many.
The stories make for charming reading, but had there been half as many stories, I think the book would have done as well. I nearly didn't get finished before my library loan expired. It's a bit like, when you've read 30 vet stories, you've read them all, so the remaining ones got to feel like going over old ground. The one exception was the occasional appearance, after the mid point of the book, of Helen, the young woman Herriot eventually married. I fell in love with Helen from the TV series, so really wanted more of her. Well, likely, I fell in love with the actress who portrayed Helen. Whatever, I still pine for her and wanted more Helen in this book. Perhaps we get more of her in the follow up books. Maybe, some day, I'll find out, but not soon, I'll soon be back in Middle Earth, and then it will be about time for another Dickens.
Speaking of Dickens reminds me of one more thing about All Creatures Great and Small
. The writing of this book is competent, but pedestrian. When you read Dickens, or The Life of Pi
, you are struck by how beautifully things are portrayed, how beautiful language can be. Not so here. Herriot's stories are interesting in themselves, but the writing is merely utilitarian.