Herriot loses all that animal magic

Elaine King

EVERY LIVING THING, by James Herriot (Pan Books, $77).

EVERY Living Thing will undoubtedly be pounced on by James Herriot fans who must have wondered if their beloved vet had dropped dead in some Yorkshire dale.

The fact that it is his first book in more than 10 years is a surprise.

But sadly, the novelty wears off quickly. The first chapter deals with a sick horse, the second with a sick dog, and the third with a sick cat.

The most interesting character is probably the eccentric vet in his practice, Calum, who attends calls with a badger draped over his shoulder. Even Siegfried (his long-time veterinary partner) appears to have lost his colourful personality.

Herriot does paint wonderful portrayals of the animal's characters and their earthy Yorkshire village owners.

Some of the stories are touching, some mildly amusing, but they are like a weak rehash of his previous books.

Not even the greatest animal lover will find this book gripping. It is not a patch on All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Wise and Wonderful, nor does it compare with other fascinating animal stories by authors like Gerald Durrell.