All Things Wise and Wonderful Critical Essays

James Herriot


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

All Things Wise and Wonderful is primarily autobiographical, but the numerous descriptive sketches of friends, neighbors, and animals that Herriot includes in his work demonstrate his literary talent, warmth, compassion, and sense of humor. While his anecdotes are skillfully crafted, the work is in no sense fictionalized. It is the result of the efforts of a master storyteller who can hold the attention of readers of all ages. James Herriot is a man in love with his life and the Yorkshire Dales of northern England. The land is beautiful, however harsh in winter, and the people are colorful and eccentric.

One of the recurring themes in this book relates to the homesickness that Herriot feels while serving in the military. He had been married only a short time before he was drafted, he was older than most of the men with whom he was serving, and while he wanted to serve his country, he felt somewhat out of place. His stories frequently show how he missed his wife and infant son and the countryside in Yorkshire. For example, he had a dream about an old cow that could not be cured of a debilitating ailment. Therefore, it was sold at the market, only to escape from the dealer and find its way home. Herriot concluded that he had this dream because he, too, wanted so desperately to return home.

The personal quirks of Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, with whom Herriot had lived and worked, provide the source for numerous other stories in the volume. When he first arrived in Darrowby, Herriot found work with Siegfried, who was the only practicing veterinarian in the area. He learned much from the older man but also found problems in gaining acceptance...

(The entire section is 683 words.)