I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
All Things Wise and Wonderful (1976) is the third of James Herriot's wonderful books combining two shorter ones each, following All Creatures Great and Small (1972) and All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974). Like the others, this one is comprised of numerous short story chapters based on his experiences working as a veterinarian among the fells, moors, dales, and farms of Yorkshire, especially in the fictional community of Darrowby. Like the other books, the stories here range from earthy to philosophical and from comedy to tragedy and depict a wide range of animal and human personalities, idiosyncrasies, and relationships. Like the others, this one mostly takes place from the 1930s on, when animal medicine was modernizing (before antibiotics had been introduced), tractors were beginning to replace draft horses, and dairy farms were becoming industrialized. While the first book tells the overarching story of James starting his career as a vet in Yorkshire and meeting and falling in love with Helen Alderson and the second tells the story of his dating and marrying Helen and realizing that he loves his Yorkshire work and adopted home, this third book tells the story of his training for the World War II RAF and confirming his love of Darrowby and Helen and his vet career by removing him from them. Thus this book, alone of the three, consists of one set of memories (Yorkshire) nested inside another (RAF).
I found the dual memory device uncomfortable and so prefer the first two books, which consist only of Yorkshire stories. Herriot's point is that while in the RAF his memories of home were closer to his heart than his training to be a pilot, which is why at the start of nearly every new chapter something he sees or hears or does in the RAF sends him into a Yorkshire flashback, but many of the memory links feel contrived (as when while waiting to be operated on in the RAF James thinks that he would much rather be on the other end of the knife, which sends him into a Darrowby memory in which he and Tristan are operating on a dog's ear, but this story is really a comedy about Siegfried, Tristan, and James), the RAF experiences only once have anything directly to do with an animal (when James helps deliver the calf of a Shropshire farmer's cow), and the Yorkshire parts are so much more vivid, substantial, moving, and funny that I looked forward to them and regretted leaving them to return to the RAF.
Herriot rarely repeats himself. In addition to depicting a wide variety of human beings (including juvenile delinquents, philosophical farmers, depressed bachelors, laughing spinsters, and weathered old couples) and animals (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, horses, and a donkey), he writes about many different health problems: false pregnancies, grief, milk fever, fungal growths, foot and mouth, premature blindness, Hodgkin's, prolapsed uteruses, car accidents, and much more. The stories are often suspenseful because Herriot is so good at making us sympathize with the animals and their humans and James cannot always save the lives of his patients or figure out what's wrong with them. As a cat lover, as I was reaching the end I thought, "I wish there were more cat stories to go with the wonderful dog ones," when Herriot recounts the tale of Oscar, the lost cat found starved and disemboweled, one of the most exquisitely sad and happy stories I've ever read by any author.
There is much great writing throughout--
"She was the classical picture of an ancient bovine; as fleshless as her owner, with jutting pelvic bones, splayed, overgrown feet and horns with the multitude of rings along their curving length. Beneath her, the udder, once high and tight, drooped forlornly almost to the floor."
On vet work:
"I stared at it intently, appalled by the smooth glistening articular surfaces of the tibio-tarsal joint. There was something obscene in its exposure in the living animal. It was as though the hock had been broken open by brutal, inquisitive hands."
"Then I bit into the first slice of bread; home made, plastered thickly with farm butter and topped by a lavish layer of heather honey from a long row of hives I had often seen on the edge of the moor above. I closed my eyes in reverence as I chewed."
"Mr. Barge gave me the kind of sorrowing smile a bishop might bestow on an erring curate."
"But as I drove away, the somber beauty of the place overwhelmed me. The lowering hillsides burst magically into life as a shaft of sunshine stabbed through the clouds, flooding the bare flanks with warm gold."
About the audiobook, it is perfectly read by Chistopher Timothy, who played James Herriot in the BBC TV adaptations of the books. In addition to loving the material and reading the stories with conviction and delight, Timothy convincingly voices different genders and ages and classes and accents--cockney, Birmingham, Scottish, standard south of England, and, of course, the appealing Yorkshire: "There's nowt spoilin'. Ah never likes to hurry me grub. . . And how about you, Mr. Herriot? You could do with summat to keep your strength up." He also does fine farmer coughs and sneezes and dog howls and barks.
One trivial issue with the audiobook presented as a digital download is that (I assume) they originally were produced as CDs, with string, wind, and piano music opening and closing each disk, which means that often in the middle of stories pleasing but also somewhat distracting music fades in and out.
Readers who love animals or are interested in Yorkshire or the history of veterinary medicine should really read James Herriot, preferrably beginning with All Creatures Great and Small but not forgetting in time All Things Wise and Wonderful.
The storytelling combined with Timothy's reading is perfect since he played the author in the TV series based on these books.
How well they hold up after so many years. I first read the series in the 80s because my mom loved the show on PBS and one of the actors went on to play The Doctor on Doctor Who and I had just been introduced to that at the same time.
My favorite was the ending that mirrored the beginning of the first book.
Laugh and cry, some of the stories hit closer to home than others and provoke both reactions. Others can be one or the other.
Have those that complained about the editing actually contacted audible about it? This is only the 2nd book I have gotten that had an issue. The previous was Cell by Stephen King and it was eventually fixed. This is just a matter of switching the last 2 CDs when transferring to audio format.
I followed the PBS series so closely , watching over and over . I think Christopher Timothy "became" James Herriot to me and these books on Audible make me so happy. It is like revisiting old friends.
The stories are well written and wonderful to listen to. The narration is great. Just a really good way to relax.
Christopher Timothy was great in the tv series as james herriot and I absolutely love that he reads the books too. He does a great job and the stories are wonderful.
Reading the works of James Herriot in print is always enjoyable. His writing is beautiful and moving. Listening to Christopher Timothy bring those words to life is exquisite. Masterful writing comes together with brilliant narration, and the result is perfection. These books are a treat for the soul.
I am a Christian wife and mother. I write two blogs. My somewhat theological blog is called "Just Another Clay Pot," and my Fiction/Poetry blog is called "Weightiness and Whimsy."
All of Herriot's books are very enjoyable because he had a wonderful eye for beauty, for humor, for poignancy, for sorrow, and for joy. And he knew how to set it all down masterfully on paper.
However, before reading this to children, parents should be aware that this was a hard-drinking culture, and Herriot didn't minimize that fact.
As for the narration? Well, it's Christopher Timothy! What more needs to be said? He's wonderful.
Well narrated, depicting the rich variety of accents, I come back to these books when I need a vacation. While i grew up in a modern Ohio farmtown, this book takes me home to simple folk and an honest day's work.