In this first volume of his memoirs, then-newly-qualified vet James Herriot arrives in the small Yorkshire village of Darrowby, and he has no idea what to expect. How will he get on with his new boss? The local farmers? And what will the animals think? This program is filled with hilarious and touching tales of the unpredictable Siegfried Farnon, his charming student brother, Tristan, and Herriot's first encounters with a beautiful girl named Helen.
Now as then, All Creatures Great and Small is full of humor, warmth, pathos, drama, and James Herriot's love of life. His journey across the Yorkshire dales, and his encounters with humans and dogs, cows and kittens, are lovingly told by Christopher Timothy with all the fascination, affection and joy that suffuses Dr. Herriot's works.
©1972 by James Herriot; (P)1996 by Audio Renaissance
"One of the funniest and most likeable books around." (Atlantic Monthly)
"If there is any justice, All Creatures Great and Small will become a classic of its kind....With seemingly effortless art, this man tells his stories with perfect timing and optimum scale. Many more famous authors could work for a lifetime and not achieve more flawless literary control." (Chicago Tribune Book World)
"Herriot charms because he delights in life, embraces it with sensitivity and gust, and writes with grace. All Creatures Great and Small may well be the happiest book of the year." (The New York Times Book Review)
I have to be honest--I'm a biased reviewer. I love this book. I have read the whole series years ago in print and watched the TV program as well with great pleasure. I have even seen the actual vet surgery on a visit to the Yorkshire area. So I was thrilled to have the recorded book in my library too.
These are low stress, positive stories that brim with joy and silly escapades. What I call a comfortable listen. Especially good when the stress of modern life is too much and you need to escape to another time. To me they never get tired or old hat. Always good for a laugh. Highly recommended listening!
Christopher Timothy is fantastic as always, and makes the book come alive. My only problem with the recording (and the others in the series) is that the narration is punctuated with musical interludes, ostensibly at dramatic moments. Instead of enhancing the listening experience as I'm sure it was intended to do, I found this extremely distracting, because the music (sometimes of poor sound quality) interrupted the flow of the story.
James Herriot's books are, for me, the ultimate in comfort books. Which is odd, it occurred to me while listening to this audiobook; there's blood and gore and uterine explorations and knackerings and death and cruelty… There is casual mention of deeds and practices which would turn PETA's collective hair white. But I've been reading these books since I was about ten. (Which, considering the language, is surprising. Them Yorkshire farmers were salty, mind.) And then there was the wonderful tv series.
That last is what made the audiobook ideal: the reader is Christopher Timothy, who played James in the series (alongside my beloved Peter Davison as Tristan). I think he's one of those I'll follow anywhere, listen to anything he reads. He's perfect. Not just because I know him so well in the role already – he is a warm, funny, compassionate reader, wonderful at the accents and natural in his delivery.
Just like Alf Wight, better known as James Herriot. The things I mentioned before – well, they were simply a part of life on a Yorkshire farm, in a Yorkshire veterinary practice in the first half of the 20th century. It was as it was, there were no better treatments than some of the medieval remedies used, and for the most part animals were well kept because they were vital to the livelihood of their owners. There is a surprising lack of sentiment overall, whether the animal in question is a pig or a puppy, a horse or a heifer.
Which isn't to say the stories are strictly cool and clinical – not by a long mark. Tricki Woo is the perfect embodiment of the series as a whole. The pampered Pekingese "son" of a rich widow, he is a good-natured little furball whose ailments tend to stem mainly from that pampering. And when he goes flop-bott or shows other symptoms which alarm his Mrs. Pumphrey, "Uncle Herriot" is summoned on to the scene at once. The reward for James's promptitude is baskets from London at Christmas (I can't even fathom how expensive that would be, sent all the way to the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930's) along with other periodic delicacies – so James, naturally, has a mercenary fondness for the Peke. But he is also genuinely fond of the dog for his own self, as a personality, and of Mrs. Pumphrey as well. And balancing it all out like a splash of lemon juice is Mrs. Pumphrey's chauffeur, responsible for the spasmodic bouts of exercise she penitently orders, along with the role of body servant to the dog, and he loathes Tricki with a deep and burning passion. (And when the pig Nugent comes along, there is much hilarity.)
So, yes, there is some cringing as we visit the knacker's yard, or when some archaic remedy is brought out. But it merely acts in the same lemon juice fashion on the warmth found in the daily interactions with the farmers and peers and kids with their goldfish, the dogs and cats and horses and pigs and cows and sheep, the slowly disappearing way of life of the Dales farmers. The madness that is the Farnon brothers; the surely-hopeless love James has for a client's daughter – eccentric as it all can be, it still rings true, and that's the key. The book is, to co-opt what they might say about a particularly nice cob, as sound as a bell.
So, whether it should be a comfort book or not, it got me through a particularly bad night recently. The very definition of a comfort book. I love these stories.
Many audio books require major blocks of time in order to do the story justice. You feel obligated to listen through to a logical breaking point. One of the beauties of either reading or listening to a James Herriot book is that you can absorb it in small doses without feeling cheated by limited time. Although more is clearly better and over the three volumes you ultimately become as devoted to the people in his life as he was, you can still listen to the tales in the individual segments and feel fulfilled by each. Especially with a reader as good as this one, the listener does not have to put forth a lot of effort to maintain focus.
For these reasons, this is an audio book that I would highly recommend for someone who is in ill health or is hospitalized. The tales are life affirming, listening is undemanding, and the experiences of a Herriot book are as psycolgically nourishing as the best "comfort food."
James Herriot is a gifted story teller. I was given these books to read as a child and loved them dearly. On a whim I downloaded this book and was surprised at the sophistication of the writing and the depth Herriot brings to a story. These books are not just for fans of the animal story genre, a category of books I grew out of around 9 years old. These stories are rich with the lives of the characters who he writes beautifully and the glimpse he gives into Yorkshire life is believable, warm and human.
The audio book is read well, and the narrator is skilled with creating different voices and accents that arn't painfully fake.
I must add a side note that I would not give this book to a child unless they have a certain amount of maturity regarding biology and the lightly crass speech of some of the farmer characters. I grew up in a house where my mother would apologize for saying "oh sugar!" so i can quite understand how this ended up in my hands, but I'm glad it did.
I read the hard copies of the entire series years ago, then listened to them on cassettes or CDs more than once, and now am listening again on my iPod. James Herriot's stories are laugh-out-loud funny at times, heartbreaking at others, and wise without ever being preachy or sentimental. Mr. Herriot (Wight) was a humble, generous human being and gifted writer. His wonderful stories are timeless. Download this book- you will be so glad you did.
I read all of James Herriot's books several times over during the 20+ years and have never tired of them or have they been far from my mind (as a cat, dog and horse owner). I watched the BBC program as well (which was excellent). The review "Comfort Listening" says it all. My vision is now impaired and I can't really read a book anymore, so the part about them being good for someone in ill health, etc. is very accurate. If you have read these books before, you will still be as enchanted as you were the first time---and if you haven't, it will be well worth your time and your book credits to give them a try. I'm so happy that I can download the 2nd one right now and keep going!
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
Many years ago my dad handed me a greasy book and said, "Here, read this. I think you will like it." I thought - Oh no, it is going to be a cowboy book, or something else that I could imagine my dad liking, but knowing I definitely would NOT. He worked at a steel mill, thus the grease, and he read on his breaks and his lunch hour. I dutifully took the book, trying to think of a way to get out of reading it, but instead, I was hooked by the end of the first page.
The book he gave me that day was "All Creatures Great and Small." It instantly became one of my favorites, and I subsequently devoured many of James Herriot's books. When I was able to purchase it on Audible, I hoped that the audio version would live up to my memories of when I read it years ago. I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was almost like reading it the first time because of the length of time elapsed since the first reading. The only tiny little criticism I have is in Christopher Timothy's syntax. I loved his characterizations and his enthusiasm for the book, his wide array of appropriate accents, and the quality of his voice, but he has an annoying way of pausing for what I consider too long between each sentence. He speaks fast, which doesn't bother me at all, but coupled with the unusually long pauses, it started to sound like a fast yakityyakityyakityyak (silent pause) yakityyakityyakityyak (silent pause). The cadence of the reading began to be a little distracting.
Outside of that, I loved every bit of this audiobook, and even with that one annoyance, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Like me the day my dad first gave it to me, you will not be able to keep from loving it.
I enjoyed watching the All Creatures t.v. series and then discovered the books, which were even better in Heriotts own words. Then....I discovered Audible's series and I have to say, "This is the best way to experience these wonderful stories. The reader is PERFECT, and gives incredible life to all of the tales. I love these books!!
I have always loved this book, but to hear it read with the accents and voices it was just over the top wonderful. So many times I was laughing out loud, I am back today to get the second book in the series.
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