All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

November 3, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): Take an unforgettable journey through the English countryside and into the homes of its inhabitants– four-legged and otherwise– with the world’s best-loved animal doctor.

For over 25 years– since All Creatures Great and Small was first published– readers have delighted to the storytelling genius of James Herriot, the Yorkshire veterinarian whose fascinating vignettes brim with the wonder of life, animal and human.

Whether struggling mightily to position a calf for birthing, or comforting a lonely old man whose beloved dog and only companion has died, Herriot’s heartwarming and often hilarious stories of his first years as a country vet perfectly depict the wonderful relationship between man and animal– and they intimately portray a man whose humor, compassion , and love of life are truly inspiring.


  • Herriot’s writing style was just perfect for this kind of memoir. It was conversational, charming, and easy to read. I felt like I was spending time with an old friend rather than reading something that was published 40 years ago.
  • Herriot (real name James Alfred Wight) seems like someone I’d want to know in real life. He possesses humor and humility in equal measure, and was truly passionate about his profession. These qualities are evident in the writing and made the book highly enjoyable.
  • Siegfried and Tristan were excellent supporting characters. I’m not sure how much of their personalities were fabricated, but these two never failed to make me laugh. Between Siegfried’s contradictory orders (sometimes mere hours apart) to Tristan’s drunken escapades and prank phone calls, life in that bachelor pad sounded pretty grand.
  • Most of the vignettes included in the book were highly entertaining. They did start to run together by the end, but many were memorable. I particularly enjoyed the one about the cow that seemed to measure Herriot up before each kick (instead of lashing out wildly) and all the stuff about Tricki, the pampered Peke.
  • The love story between James and Helen was done just right, in my opinion. It was ladled out in small enough doses to make me care about them, but not enough to intrude on the rest of the book. Their courtship was sweet and funny, and although she seemed to be a bit too perfect, I was still happy that James got the girl in the end.


  • There’s not much I disliked about this book. In fact, I really have to dig deep to come up with something, and it’s this: I could have done without all the complaints about James’ car. It was funny at first to hear about the old car with the unbolted passenger seat that flipped James on his back the first time he sat in it, but after a while the stories about flat tires, accidents, dents, non-functioning brakes, etc. etc. got to be a bit tiresome.


All Creatures Great and Small was a joyous book to read. It was engaging and entertaining, and made me long for the simple lifestyle that Herriot, Siegfried, Tristan, and Helen lived in the English countryside. I give this one 5 stars out of 5.

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