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All Creatures Great and Small summary

James Herriot

The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World's Most Beloved Animal Doctor

4.3 (113 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot is a heartwarming memoir that brings to life the challenges and joys of being a country vet in 1930s Yorkshire. It captures the beauty of the English countryside and the unbreakable bond between humans and animals.

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    All Creatures Great and Small
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    A night in the barn

    In a freezing Yorkshire barn, young veterinarian James Herriot is engaged in a grueling battle to save a calf’s life, his arm buried inside the mother cow. Herriot, stripped to the waist and shivering, is determined to deliver the calf despite the overwhelming odds. The calf’s head is improperly positioned, making the delivery exceptionally difficult. Additionally, the pressure of the cow’s contractions on his arm test Herriot’s physical limits.

    The atmosphere in the barn is tense. The farmer and his son watch Herriot’s every move, their expressions filled with worry and doubt. Adding to the pressure, an elderly relative, Uncle, is present, offering unsolicited advice and comparisons with another local vet, Mr. Broomfield.

    Despite the challenges, Herriot continues his painstaking work. He employs various techniques, from repelling a leg to using a blunt hook in the eye socket, but each attempt is met with limited success. The situation becomes increasingly dire, with Herriot questioning whether the calf will survive the prolonged and complicated delivery.

    In a decisive moment, Herriot manages to secure a looped rope around the calf’s lower jaw. This small victory brings hope, but the struggle is far from over. Herriot must now coordinate his efforts with the farmer to gently guide the calf into a proper position for delivery.

    The tension reaches a peak as the calf’s head finally emerges, followed by the rest of its body. The animal appears lifeless at first, lying motionless on the cold floor. But Herriot doesn’t give up. He clears the mucus from the calf’s mouth and begins artificial respiration, a last-ditch effort to revive the newborn.

    Miraculously, the calf shows signs of life, gasping for air and moving its limbs. The mother, initially unresponsive and exhausted, becomes animated upon sensing her calf’s presence. She begins to lick and nuzzle the little creature, her maternal instincts kicking in. This simple yet profound act of care breathes new life into the calf as it gradually gains strength and starts to sit up. This, Heriot thinks, is his favorite part –⁠ the miracle that never, ever gets old.

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    What is All Creatures Great and Small about?

    All Creatures Great and Small (1972) is a semi-autobiographical chronicle of the life and adventures of young veterinarian James Herriot during the 1930s and ’40s. Blending humor, warmth, and vivid storytelling, it beautifully captures the challenges and joys of veterinary practice in rural England. Ultimately, it offers a delightful and heartfelt portrayal of the bond between humans and animals as well as the enduring spirit of community.

    All Creatures Great and Small Review

    All Creatures Great and Small (1972) by James Herriot is a heartwarming memoir of a countryside veterinarian in 1930s England. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Through humorous anecdotes and vivid descriptions, the book showcases the joys and challenges of working with animals, providing a unique insight into the veterinary profession.
    • Set against the backdrop of the picturesque Yorkshire Dales, the book beautifully captures the beauty of the natural world and creates a strong sense of place.
    • With its emotional depth and relatable characters, the book elicits empathy from readers, making it an engaging and emotionally satisfying read.

    Who should read All Creatures Great and Small?

    • Veterinarians and veterinary students
    • Animal lovers and nature enthusiasts
    • Anyone interested in a cozy, nostalgic story

    About the Author

    James Herriot, born James Alfred Wight, was a renowned British veterinary surgeon and writer known for his semi-autobiographical books about rural life and veterinary practice. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979, and the James Herriot Library at Glasgow Veterinary College was named after him. In addition to All Things Great and Small, which was turned into a successful television series, he wrote many books, including All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

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    All Creatures Great and Small FAQs 

    What is the main message of All Creatures Great and Small?

    The main message of All Creatures Great and Small is a heartwarming and humorous account of a country veterinarian's life in rural England.

    How long does it take to read All Creatures Great and Small?

    The reading time for All Creatures Great and Small varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is All Creatures Great and Small a good book? Is it worth reading?

    All Creatures Great and Small is a delightful book that offers a charming glimpse into the world of veterinary medicine. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of All Creatures Great and Small?

    The author of All Creatures Great and Small is James Herriot.

    What to read after All Creatures Great and Small?

    If you're wondering what to read next after All Creatures Great and Small, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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