Sunday, June 16, 2013

James Herriot. All Creatures Great and Small (1970-73)

     James Herriot. All Creatures Great and Small (1970-73) I've had enough of politics for a while. Watched the debate of the Provincial party leaders last night. Steve Paikin is an excellent moderator, and kept the debate going smoothly. He really likes politics, and politicians, too, a rare sentiment these days.
     I've just finished reading the first Herriot omnibus, a very pleasant book. I didn't read his books when they first came out, but I watched the TV series several times. It reran for years on PBS. So while reading the book, I saw the characters as portrayed on TV, which both helped and hindered, as some of the descriptions were at odds with the appearance of the actors. Never mind, it was a pleasant read, a series of anecdotes that add up to a portrait of the writer and his clients.
     Herriot can be sentimental, and is at his best in straightforward story telling. He has a talent for the illuminating detail or remark. His courtship of Helen Alderson was expanded for the series; perhaps Herriot advised on some of the details of what he merely refers to here, the long walks they took, the times Helen came along on his rounds, and so on. Herriot doesn't pretend to be better than he is. He has a temper and self doubts. He doesn't let us in on his innermost thoughts very often, and when he does, we get a fair amount of his feelings for the Dales and their inhabitants. As I've said, these tend towards the sentimental, but his delight in the landscape, the people, and his profession is genuine, as is his regret for the passing of some of the old ways, tempered by his recognition of the value of the new. The book isn't exactly a page turner, but its anecdotal structure and plain style (leavened with a dry and pleasant wit) makes it a good bedtime book, one that one may put down and take up again without losing one's place. I will never read it again, but I will give it to someone who can appreciate its plain virtues and pleasures. *** (2006)

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