The Complete James Herriot

15 Dec

51PoW1fkDaL._SL500_SS500_James Alfred Wright was a veteran veterinarian of many years when he decided to write these semi-autobiographical works under the pen mane James Herriot.  In doing so he created a series of books that exude warmth and humour, perfect for a winter’s night with some mulled wine, which, incidentally,  I had for the first time the other day and rather enjoyed it.

Fresh out of veterinary school James Herriot takes a job in the cosy Yorkshire Village of Darrowby where he meets all kinds of weird, wonderful creatures and their eccentric owners.

The first thing that strikes when reading any Herriot book is the immediate way that the reader is drawn in and becomes enamoured with the world of Yorkshire, these days everyone seems to set their fictionalised autobiographies there, but this is, by a country mile, the seminal series.

It exudes a timeless appeal, bringing to life the decades of the 1930’s through to the ’50’s and convincingly shows the changing procedures of animal medicine, the constant mistrust of the farmers and also the effects and after effects of the second world war.

These books are a veritable mix of emotions, there are stories which bring a lump to the throat, laugh out loud stories – Tricky woo, the pampered dog being a stand out character – but it has always been the first chapter that stood out for me.

Since reading these books for the first time, aged 11 or so, I have always been able to visualise the sheer brutality of what a vet had to go through to do his job in those days.  Picture the scene, Herriot is helping with the calfing and tries for hours to bring out the calf which has turned inside the mother.  Imagine, the 3AM call out, the stripping to the waist and sluicing on of cold water in the middle of a freezing wind to try to rescue a life…

Of course, I would never dream of telling you how it turns out as that would deprive you of the tense excitement the book often generates but the vividness of this and other scenes have the power to stay with you, making this book perfect for keeping warm with on these dark December nights.

The mix of the hardworking yet peaceful way of Yorkshire life, coupled with bizarre owners and some vicious animals are a must not just for animal lovers, but for anyone wanting to envelop themselves in something a little bit special. A past sadly gone forever but kept alive here for the joy of anyone who cares about the world we live in.


Posted by on 15/12/2012 in Autobiography, Fiction


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10 responses to “The Complete James Herriot

  1. readingwithrhythm

    15/12/2012 at 23:11

    We love James Herriot at out house! I have a vet very much like him.


    • StetotheJ

      16/12/2012 at 12:42

      Sweet. Herriot never seems to get much of a mention but really is a gem of a series. I have immense respect for vets after reading these.


  2. aliceatwonderland

    16/12/2012 at 03:25

    Great stuff! I admit I haven’t read his books, but maybe I should. I LOVED, absolutely loved the show based on his books that was on PBS. It’s true, the stories are timeless Did you see the series?


    • StetotheJ

      16/12/2012 at 12:39

      I haven’t seen the series, once I’d read the books, I considered the series would probably be a bit of a let down. I’ll get around to it one day, probably straight after Jaws, as I have never seen that either. I always wondered how the books would translate to an American Audience.


  3. letizia

    16/12/2012 at 12:54

    Love these books too, such charm!


    • StetotheJ

      16/12/2012 at 13:28

      Exactly, it’s a place and time I would love to live in. The only stress being the football results, of course.


  4. LuAnn

    16/12/2012 at 19:24

    Can you believe I have never read any of his works? That is going to have to change!


    • StetotheJ

      19/12/2012 at 16:50

      Yes keep that to read pile growing, they are extremely satisfying after a stressful day of being needlessly stressed.


  5. gaele1

    19/12/2012 at 12:11

    The series – with Robert Hardy – is actually quite good – it’s a BBC production and when they were doing it – they were fairly respectful of the story – and the scenery is just stunning.


    • StetotheJ

      19/12/2012 at 16:59

      In that case I will have to seek them out and have a watch. I love scenery watching, it gives more depth to a programme I think.



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