All Creatures Great and Small

by James Herriot
448 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Jeanne

A lighthearted, warm story of a veterinarian's life, but with swearing and drinking.


A collection of some of James Herriot's veterinary experiences in the Dales, written with warmth and "brimming with life."


Herriot does his best for every animal he treats, but he does have to put some down. In one of the stories he mentions how some Dales farmers try to trick the vets into thinking a cow has been struck by lightning (which would earn the farmers insurance money). In general, the farmers are very hospitable and giving.

Spiritual Content

A few mentions of church.


These stories are not for those with weak stomachs. Surgeries are discussed and described; a blood-letting is witnessed; intestinal contortions occur in horses; and there are several birthings. A horse attempts to jump a fence and tears up its chest on a post. There is a car crash in which no one is injured.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Men in the Dales drink heavily, and so do Herriot, his boss, and his boss' brother. Drunkenness occurs several times. People frequent pubs.

Sexual Content

Herriot falls in love with a girl, but every time he takes her out, something goes very wrong. Tristan Farnon, the younger brother of Herriot's boss, is said to be a womanizer. He also arranges for Herriot to come out on a blind date (which also goes wrong); Herriot kisses the girl he goes out with.

The process of castration is related.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

There is a great deal of swearing, including the taking of God's name in vain. "Bl****," "bu****," "b******," and "d***" are all used frequently. There are also some other crude remarks here and there.

Various parts of animals' anatomy are mentioned, as this is a story of a vet.


These stories would probably not be half as amusing or cozy as they are if it were not for Herriot's writing style, but as it is, his account of life in the Dales as a young veterinarian overflows with charm and laughter. In addition to the evident love he has for animals, he paints a vivid picture of the landscape of the English Dales and of the peoples' lives there in the early twentieth century. As long as the reader has a strong enough stomach, this book can be enjoyed whether one is interested in medicine or not. As before noted, however, it does have a great deal of drinking and swearing.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: adult

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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