(James Herriot is actually the pen name for James Alfred Wight)
In 1940, James Herriot was a young veterinarian college graduate looking for work. He applied for a position with Siegfried Farnon, a rural vet, and to his amazement, was hired. That began years of interesting animal cases that the author would write about later. As a country vet, James worked with horses, cows, rabbits, sheep, and pigs, as well as people’s pets. Because he was so young, and the new fellow in the community, it took awhile for people to accept him. But as time went by, he became respected and loved.
James shared some of his most interesting veterinarian visits. His recall of how the animal looked, the details of its illness, and the demeanor of its owner, are astounding. Sometimes the diagnosis was simple, sometimes complex. Sometimes he was treated like family by the person who had called him, sometimes they treated him quite rudely. Sometimes the treatment worked, sometimes the treatment failed and the animal died. It was a mixture of the good and bad times of being an animal doctor.
The other thing that made this a great book was the dialogue between James, his boss Siegfried, and Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan. Siegfried was an eclectic sort who would tell James one thing, then the next day tell him something totally different. Sometimes he was magnanimous and gracious, other times scolding and harsh. Poor James was often confused about what his boss actually wanted him to do. Tristan also received verbal blasts, and James sometimes found himself in the middle of Siegfried and Tristan’s disagreements.
Although some of the names of people and places have been changed, this is still considered a fine biography. So many people enjoyed the book that it was made into a television show in 1978 by the BBC. This fine series is available on DVD – but read the book first!