As I was reading through James Herriot’s The Lord God Made Them All, the question of just how popular Herriot’s works are today occurred to me. My mother is particularly fond of these works, and I picked up a fondness for them from her. Herriot’s literary skill, the many surprises contained in these stories, the genuineness of his character, and many hilarious moments combine to make these great fun to read. He also employs a frame story to great effect in his works so that we do not become bored with a barrage of veterinary cases. He most often resorted to his experiences in the Second World War to provide a main narrative, from his time in basic training to his career in the Royal Air Force. In the one I’m presently reading, he uses a sea voyage he takes to Russia on a Danish merchant ship during the Cold War as a main narrative in which he intersperses his veterinary practice.
Let me end this post by giving you an example of how amusing the stories are. During one chapter, he describes a barber who is willing to trim people’s hair during his stay in the pub at the cost of one pint per hair cut. The guy can cut hair pretty well up to four pints; however, they start getting a little messy after that: seeing one farmer with a missing side burn, Herriot comments that it must have been a 10-pint job.
Anyway, this barber brings his little mutt named Venus to him, because she got into the garbage pail and began eating some chicken bones, one of which lodged itself across the roof of her mouth. An easy fix, but the dog struggles so much that Herriot suggests the use of anesthesia. The owner leaves and Herriot extracts the bone from the sleeping dog without any trouble–except that he realizes that the dog stopped breathing! Now, her heart is still beating and everything, but that won’t last long if she doesn’t breathe again! He tries every method possible in the examining room until he rushes outside in order to use the approved method for resuscitating a small dog in the ’60’s. He grabs the dog by her hind legs and spins her around in a circle while raising and lowering the dog! His son, who had watched all the proceedings, nearly died laughing. After several attempts and the world around Herriot spinning, the dog starts breathing again, and Herriot is able to return Venus alive to her owner.
Oh, I will offer a review of The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, but I decided to read that work again before writing up a review. Expect it in one month or less!