Monday, August 1, 2016

The Original Vet Author

Every Living ThingEvery Living Thing by James Herriot
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a joy to discover I had one more unread book to read by legendary vet and author James Herriot! I thought I'd read this one back when I was downing these books like they were water, but I guess I missed it. Many of the stories are familiar, but I realized that's probably because they were used in the tv series, all the episodes of which I've seen a couple times over.

Every Living Thing has all the wonderful goodness of the first four books in the series. Plenty of veterinarian triumphs and failures with that human-to-animal and vice versa connection ever present in Herriot's work. The remote English windswept countryside comes to living-breathing life as a backdrop to the well-described trials and tribulations of the vet, the farmers he served and the cows, horses, dogs, cats, sheep, etc etc etc that so enveloped their lives.

Once I realized I hadn't read this one before I really started to get into it. After all, this is probably the last Herriot book I'd ever read. I've loved them so very much that I wanted to learn more about his world. I went online and found the town of Thirsk, UK, which I'd once driven through in search of the veterinarian practice where he worked. I didn't find it then, back in ye olden pre-smart phone days, but I found it now on Google Street View, which even allows you to step inside the house and have a look around! I also read a Wiki page to two about Herriot and his books, and came to find out that many of the characters I suspected were completely fictional were actually real! Of course the names have been changed, but I was surprised that they were actual people, because the way Herriot portrayed them, they seemed too ridiculous to be true. I'm thinking mainly of "Mrs. Pomphrey". I learned the sad news that back when I originally read these most of the people, including the writer himself, were dying of old age, ailments and accidents. Bummer.

But always, Herriot balanced the happy with the sad, and Every Living Thing strikes that balance perfectly. It's a great finish to a great series!

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This Generation's James Herriot?

Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country VetNever Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet by Jan Pol
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This ain't no All Creatures Great and Small, but it ain't bad neither!

Jan Pol is a veterinarian practicing in Michigan and the star of a reality show on Nat Geo Wild. In fact, it's the channel's most popular show.

Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow is Pol's cash-in-on-popularity book. I don't blame him! I don't think he even wanted to write it, but when the people want it, you do what you got to do.

It's apparent that writing isn't Pol's number one strength. He's an immigrant from the Netherlands, so English isn't his first language. Plus, he's a doctor, damn it, not an author! There are occasional awkward phrasings and a few repetitions. However, all in all, it's a good effort.

Any time a vet writes a book about his/her adventures in large animal practice, it's going to be compared with James Herriot's beloved work. It just is. Pol is no Herriot. He isn't trying to be. Herriot was a grand storyteller, who added fictional flourishes to his factual narrative. With this book, Pol just dishes out case after case without embellishment or much flair. Certainly he is a character to rival those found in the Herriot books, but he is a 100% real person and that comes through in his writing.

Pol has come under scrutiny since his show began airing. Seems some viewers don't like the way he's handled some of his cases. That gets addressed in the book and it's nice to hear his side of the story.

Warts and all, this is an enjoyable story that I recommend to anyone with an interest in animals.

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