Goodreads: The Lord God Made Them All
Series: All Creatures Great and Small #4
Age Category: Adult
After leaving the RAF, James Herriot returns to Darrowby, where he continues his veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales, and also makes a few trips as a travel vet.
The fourth volume in James Herriot’s series about veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales brings readers back to Darrowby after Herriot’s short stint in the RAF during WWII. The familiar people and places return, interspersed with chapters of Herriot’s trips to Russia and Istanbul. While I enjoyed Herriot’s trademark humor and gentle observations on life, I admittedly found the anecdotes less entertaining than those in his previous books. And I thought the foreign travel chapters were misplaced. Still, one cannot go wrong with Herriot. It’s always soothing to follow his stories at the end of a busy day.
Regrettably, much of the drama that makes the first two volumes in this series so memorable are missing. Herriot is no longer a young vet from the city who needs to prove himself, but an established professional. He no longer is courting Helen and finding himself in awkward situations, but is happily married with children. Even Siegfried and Tristan have gone off and gotten married, with no explanation of how that happened or who their wives are, meaning that a great deal of humor has gone. Even the anecdotes and people here are less engaging than those of yore. How I miss Tricki Woo! Still, Herriot’s gentle way of laughing at himself and finding the joy in everyday situations kept me reading.
But what to do with the chapters on Russia and Istanbul? Herriot, apparently, traveled as a ship’s vet to Russia once to make sure their livestock arrived healthy, and then by plane another time to Istanbul. He seems to have realized, however, that readers really just want stories from Darrowby, so he cuts up his accounts of each trip into chapters that appear randomly throughout the book. The first time the chapter on Russia suddenly cut off and switched back to Darrowby, I thought the audiobook I was listening to had skipped, or perhaps was defective. Had the creators just…forgotten to record the rest of the Russia chapters? But then, lo! A few chapters on, Herriot is back in Russia. It is extremely confusing.
To me, it seems obvious Herriot should have left these chapters out. The books are not really comprehensive accounts of his life and everything that happened, but anecdotes about veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales. Thematically, Herriot’s attempts to write a mini travelogue do not belong. I suppose he could have published them separately, but I also wonder if he knew his readers probably would not want to buy something like that from him. And, truly, I’m not sure Herriot was meant to be a travel writer. His account to Russia spends a lot of time on what he ate on the ship and how he was never sea sick, then meanders on to a few not particularly illuminating observations of the country. His trip to Istanbul is more humorous since he gets stranded there, but, he does not really have a keen sense for describing new places to readers. His talents are best reserved for the animals and the people who care for them.
Still, Herriot’s books are comfort reads. I love looking forward to his misadventures each day and to his gentle sense of humor. While I miss the Siegfried and Tristan stories of old, readers still get fun stories about the pets and farm animals Herriot treats. And one really feels Herriot’s love for his work and for humanity. The world always needs a bit of warmth, and that is just what Herriot’s books provide.