BooksOfTheMoon

Vet in Harness

By James Herriot

Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this fourth volume of James Herriot’s veterinary memoirs even more than the preceding volumes. This volume spends less time on farms with Jim elbow-deep in a cow’s vagina, and more time with some of the smaller animals that a vet sometimes has to deal with, particularly dogs. There’s also a slightly melancholy air to it, as although it’s hardly mentioned, the War is looming. And indeed, this volume ends with Jim being called up to serve, along with his partner Siegfried and the newly qualified Tristan (Siegfried’s brother), leaving the practice in the care of strangers.

Speaking of those two characters, another change to previous volumes is that they barely show up. There’s an amusing story of Siegfried judging a Christmas cake and Tristan pranking a drunk who mistakes their surgery for the GP practice next door, but other than that, it’s very much just Jim trudging through the Yorkshire hills and the characters he meets in his practice.

To make up for it to some degree, we’re introduced to a new regular – the specialist small animal surgeon Granville Bennett, a larger than life character with whom Jim inexplicably tries to match drink for drink every time they meet up, and ends up consistently making a fool of himself, in an endearing way.

Like the other Herriot memoirs, this is a very gentle and readable book, where Herriot’s love of the Yorkshire countryside is often to the fore. I look forward to the next one soon.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330443562
Publisher: Pan Books (UK)
Year of publication: 2006

Let Sleeping Vets Lie

By James Herriot

Rating: 4 stars

I’m not sure I can write anything about this third volume of James Herriot’s (fictionalised) memoirs that is really that different from the first two. Herriot continues to be in love with the Yorkshire Dales, and with the beautiful Helen, although he seems incapable of wooing her in any sensible way. Somehow though, she sees past all that and decides that she likes him anyway.

Siegfried and Tristan both continue to be true to their established characters, although now that I’m ready for them, they become funny traits that I look forward to seeing. Herriot obviously puts a lot of love into the characterisation of the various folk that he comes into contact with over the course of his practice, both the loveable ones and the not-so-loveable.

This is mostly just very pleasant, light reading with nostalgic fondness for a hard time, long gone. Although in saying that, there are a couple of tear-jerking stories, and I tense up every time that Herriot has to go and visit a dog in the fear that something bad might happen to it.

I’m not really an animal person, and not a country person, but I do find myself enjoying these memoirs a lot.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330443548

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet

By James Herriot

Rating: 4 stars

The second volume of James Herriot’s veterinary memoirs follow much in the same vein as his first. He talks about specific cases and characters from his time practising in the Yorkshire Dales, as as well as the eccentricities of his boss Siegfried and his boss’s brother Tristan, who also helps out, when he’s not studying. This volume also introduces us to Helen Alderson, whom our intrepid vet starts to woo. (The dates that he takes her on are toe-curlingly disastrous, but she keeps coming back, so I guess there must be something to the young man).

Herriot paints a lovely picture of a time that’s now long gone. I wonder what he would have made of modern industrial farming, without the space for the eccentrics and smallholders that populated the dales in the first half of the 20th century and who Herriot describes so lovingly. While I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to live in that period (or, indeed, any period without modern medicine and a decent Wi-Fi connection), I can be slightly sad that we’ve lost something as we’ve modernised.

These books are a charming, low stress look into the past and I look forward to reading more of them.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330443463

If Only They Could Talk

By James Herriot

Rating: 4 stars

Prior to reading this, my knowledge of this series by James Herriot didn’t go any further than knowing that the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, starred in a BBC adaptation of it in the ’70s and ’80s. In fact, I thought it was a fictional account of a country vet, rather than a fictionalised memoir. In any event, it’s not a book that I would ever have picked up for myself, but a friend bought me the entire box set for my birthday and I’m now glad that she did.

It’s a very gentle, low-pressure account of the practice of veterinary medicine around the middle of the 20th century in the countryside of the north of England. A time when you could drive to the pub, drink several pints and then hop back into the car to go home (this made me shudder every time). Herriot quietly teases out the eccentric personalities of both his fellow vets (he’s the assistant here to the very strange Siegfried Farnon, whose younger brother Tristan also hangs around, when he’s not at university, allegedly studying to be a vet himself) and the good people of the Yorkshire dales where he works. You get a real feeling for both the place and the people.

I’ll definitely read more in the series, but it doesn’t make being a vet sound enticing at all (not that it did before – I am not an animal person), but being up all hours to be feeling around in the rear end of a cow, or having to put down a dog is not my idea of a good way to spend my working life.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330447089
Publisher: Pan Publishing
Year of publication: 2006

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