Young Herriot – John Lewis-Stempel

Young Herriot – John Lewis-StempelYoung Herriot: The Early Life and Times of James Herriot by John Lewis-Stempel
Published by BBC Books on September 1st 2011
Pages: 272

The fascinating formative veterinary college years of the most famous vet in the world, the author of All Creatures Great and Small

We had no antibiotics, few drugs. A lot of time was spent pouring things down cows' throats. The whole thing added up to a lot of laughs. There's more science now, but not so many laughs.

How did a young student named Alf Wight become James Herriot, the man who would charm millions of readers the world over? Set in Glasgow in the 1930s—pre-antibiotics, when veterinary practice was, as Herriot wrote, "more art than science"—the book shines a light on his calling to work with animals (which began when he read an article in Meccano Magazine entitled "Veterinary Surgery as a Career"), his early friendships and quest for knowledge at Glasgow's Veterinary College, and the early development of his legendary compassion for animals. Young Herriot uses previously unpublished diaries and casebooks from Herriot's days as a student to bring to life a fascinating time and place, and represents a thrilling new addition to the James Herriot canon.

If you’re a fan of the TV series All Creatures Great and Small or even the series of books written by James Herriot then I’m sure you’ll love this book. Well, I loved it and I’m extrapolating from my love of it to tell you that you’ll love it too. I’m sure I’m not at all biased. I’ve been reading and rereading those books for a long time…and rereading…and rewatching the series. I’m sure you get the idea.

I love both the TV series and the books equally. The books came first but I saw it on TV first and only read the books for the sake of completion. I’ve since read as much as I possibly can about Herriot. We have the book about him written by his son, Jim Wight, The Real James Herriot detailing the man who never changed despite his fame. If you’ve seen the TV series then this is the boy, Jimmy, who helped Herriot on so many occasions.

Then there’s this book, of which I currently wax lyrical, Young Herriot. And then there’s the TV series mentioned on the front cover of this book. It’s called Young James Herriot and has Iain De Caestecker in the title role. You might remember him as Leopold Fitz in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Moving on to the book I’m talking about today

The names of the TV series and this book keep changing depending on which listing you look at. This book is based on Young James Herriot but gives us so much more detail. Young James Herriot is only three episodes and spends most of its time showing us how Herriot coped as a youngish adult as a student in college. This book takes us on a slightly different journey. In it we get to see the economy of the area and how he must have actually afforded to attend college. We get to see some of how he grew up and about his parents. If you want an all-round picture of the man and the area then I’d recommend reading the book then watching the TV series. You could easily do them the other way round. One fleshes out the other.

You’ll notice a few links along the way. I’ve put them in as I fully recommend reading and watching everything I’ve mentioned. You don’t have to do it all in one day, that’d be an incredibly long day, but over a period of time would be good. You’ll learn some history, some stuff about animals and you’ll fall in love with the man, his family and the area he’s in. I wouldn’t dare mention some veterinary procedures but they’re there as well.