Friday, December 20, 2013

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: If Only They Could Talk by James Herriot

If Only They Could Talk
James Herriot

Fresh out of Veterinary College, and shoulder-deep in an uncooperative cow, James Herriot's first job is not panning out exactly as expected ...To a Glaswegian like James, 1930s Yorkshire appears to offer an idyllic pocket of rural life in a rapidly changing world. But even life in the sleepy village of Darrowby has its challenges. On the one hand there are his new colleagues, Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, two brothers who attract a constant stream of local girls to whom James is strangely invisible. On the other he must contend with herds of semi-feral cattle, gruff farmers with incomprehensible accents and an overweight Pekingese called Tricki Woo...

Pan Books Ltd


Rosy's scrawlings on If Only They Could Talk
This book is the first of the series of James Herriot books that was later converted into the TV show All Things Bright And Beautiful. Whether or not you've seen the show you'll be familiar with the tune at least. The books and show were so popular they've entered our culture much like Dr Doolittle, another veterinary tale. Like many recent great stories that haven't hit the cannon list yet the books seem to have dropped from the popular reading list all while becoming a bit of or shared consciousness. This is quite a shame as If Only They Could Talk is not only an interesting read for all the veterinary information but also for its odd structure. It is also full of quirky and comedic situations and shines a light on the life of a rural vet.
If Only They Could Talk is the story of a year in the life of a newly graduated rural vet at a time when cars have just taken over from horses as the main mode of transportation. James is employed rather quickly by a vet named Siegfried Farnon in a little village made up mostly of farms and a pub or two, as far as I can tell. His employer is extremely odd, rather charismatic and has the memory of a fish. He also has a brother who's as lazy as they come but he puts so much effort into being lazy that his aptitude for intellectual activities is proven. From here the cast of quirky characters, including an overly fat and joyous Pekingese, expands. These characters, whether farm owners, high society ladies or pub guests are the centre of a very long series of short stories that reveal the life of James Herriot the vet's assistant. Each little story is only a few pages long, woven together with the next to create a meandering tale without real aim that seems to mirror the country in which James practices.
The writing style is a little jagged at times and there's many a veterinary term and medical condition included that can make you squeamish. There's also one reference to a gay man in very out dated and offensive terms but this doesn't seem to come from any ingrained reaction in the writer. Otherwise, the story rolls along like the hills, gently taking you into places and situations you're never likely to be in nowadays, unless you're a farmer. Veterinary science and practice has come a long, long way, as has farming, mortuary and abattoir work. Reading of how it once was is extremely interesting as there aren't that many sources readily available for looking into this past lifestyle.

I'd recommend this book to: Animal lovers, vets and those interested in becoming a vet, historical and comedy novel enthusiasts. I'd also recommend this book to anyone except those a little too young to read about more realistic animal birth scenes.

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