As in his preceding three books—All Creatures Great and Small (1972), All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974), and All Things Wise and Wonderful (1976)—Herriot portrays the people he meets with an eye toward the details of their lives. He makes readers aware of correspondences without being heavy-handed, and Herriot’s self-effacing manner and honest treatment of his own mistakes and shortcomings lead the reader to admire but not canonize the author.
Each chapter typically addresses one overriding concern that unifies the episode. An example of this method is chapter 3, the theme of which is “change versus constancy.” Chapter 3 begins with the author stopping his car on a high moorland road to get out and look around at the landscape. His day’s work has reminded him of how much veterinary practice has changed since the war—a change represented by a farmer’s saying “It’s all t’needle now, Mr. Herriot.” His stopping to look at the land around him comforts him: “I looked through the window at the great fells thrusting their bald summits into the clouds, tier upon tier of them, timeless, indestructible, towering over the glories beneath, and I felt better immediately. The Dales had not changed at all.” His next focus in the chapter is his home, a walk into which allows Herriot to fill in the details about changes in Tristan Farnon’s life since the war and to bring Siegfried Farnon briefly back into his book. Siegfried has had car trouble and has decided that the veterinary practice needs another vehicle. He informs Herriot of his decision and then test drives a candidate for purchase, a harrowing ride described by the author....
(The entire section is 690 words.)