June 09, 2013

Every Living Thing by James Herriot

If you're an animal lover you have probably heard of James Herriot.  But on the off chance you haven't, he's a veterinarian that practiced in England in the mid nineteen-hundreds.  And he was an animal lover himself, in addition to being a writer.

Every Living Thing is part of a series that chronicles Herriot's experiences as a vet.  But it is not the type of series that you have to read in order.  This book is a collection of short stories from Herriot's practice and can range from stories about horses, to cows, to dogs and cats, and even some of his house hunting stories too.  And it's also a book about the owner of these animals, because ultimately, they are the ones that Herriot interacts with the most.

There are a wide range of characters in Herriot's books.  He works with a lot of strange creatures, and I'm not talking about just the animals!  The people are just as varied and seemingly dependent on their animals well-being for their own well-being, so much so that at times it doesn't seem authentic, but they're still nice stories.  There always seems to be a story where a human is downtrodden because their animal is not acting quite right, but there are just as many that are quirky on their own with their animal being ok.  And the animals are amusing as well; while the cows and sheep don't have too much of a personality, all of the dogs and cats he worked with seemed to.  I did enjoy the story of his two feral cats quite a bit.  He showed a lot of patience with them. 

These are all short stories but they had some kind of tie-in for all of them.  A lot of times this was just an arching story of Herriot wanting a better house, but it still eased the transition and made the book almost seamless.  Some of them were more interesting than others (I didn't particularly care for the story about the Tailor), but overall it was a very nice, pleasant read.  That is, pleasant if one ignores all the descriptions of Herriot reaching his hands insides all sorts of places on animals all the time.  I'm not saying that it ruined the story, for me it didn't, but to those who are a little more squeamish it might put them off the book.  Because Herriot doesn't hold any description back.  But even in doing so his love of animals is evident and he's out there no matter what trying to help them, and I think that's what makes this book charming.

Definitely a cozy read and one that most people can appreciate the warmth and approachability that Herriot gives veterinary work.

Every Living Thing
Copyright 1992
374 pages

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