#AllCreaturesGreatandSmall Book and #PBSMasterpiece Review

I’m not an animal lover, per se, but as I was growing up I longed for a pet of some kind, and I loved the Black Beauty TV Series that was on Nickelodeon back in the day (Amazon) and watching horse races like the Kentucky Derby. When I was in junior high, I picked up All Creatures Great and Small (Amazon) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I re-read James Herriot’s books when I was 29 and on bed rest with my firstborn child, and I recently added the audiobook to my collection. And now PBS Masterpiece Theater has a new series of the beloved books. There have been four episodes so far.

“For over forty years, generations of readers have thrilled to Herriot’s marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.

In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot’s periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot’s recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.”

If you’re not familiar with the books, All Creatures Great and Small is actually a compilation of two books. They are about a country vet in England in the late 1930’s, loosely based on the author’s exploits as a veterinarian. First published in 1972, the simple stories of a Scottish vet in the Yorkshire Dales became an instant best seller because of their simplicity, honesty, and humor. They catapulted James Herriot (a pseudonym) to instant fame. More books followed, and to date, the books have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.

The audiobook of All Creatures Great and Small (Amazon) is narrated by Christopher Timothy, who starred in the BBC production of the books from 1978 – 1990. I watched a few episodes but it was not Must See TV for me; I was not the big fan of PBS that I am today. Timothy knows his character well, and tells the stories in the most heartfelt manner. He knows how to deliver a line to extract a smile, warm chuckle, or guffaw, as well as tear or two.

Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot in the current PBS Masterpiece series (Amazon) and does an excellent job bringing the vet to life. He first shows the naivete of a newly-graduated veterinarian looking for work. As the show progresses week to week, Ralph shows Herriot’s growth as a doctor and as a man. His interactions with the Farnon brothers ring true to the books and are great to see on the screen. But this series does take some liberties with the books, which were decidedly male-centric, by making Mrs. Hall, the housekeeper, an integral part of the show. Also added is Helen and her little sister Jenny, who don’t show up in the book right until about half way through, and then sporadically appears until the end. In the show, Helen is kind-of-sort-of dating someone else, which didn’t happen in the books.

I’m glad another generation gets to know about this fabulous book series. I’ll definitely be picking up my long-held copies of the other books and re-reading them at some point this year.

This is the ninth audiobook I’ve listened to this year as part of my Audiobook Challenge.

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