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The Real James Herriot: The Authorized Biography

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After qualifying as a vet in 1939, Alf Wight, aka James Herriot, moved to a veterinary practice in Thirsk. He was over fifty when his first book of stories about life as a Yorkshire vet was published, giving birth to some of Yorkshire's most famous and much-loved literary characters. Although he brought fame and fortune to himself and those around him, Alf Wight remained a After qualifying as a vet in 1939, Alf Wight, aka James Herriot, moved to a veterinary practice in Thirsk. He was over fifty when his first book of stories about life as a Yorkshire vet was published, giving birth to some of Yorkshire's most famous and much-loved literary characters. Although he brought fame and fortune to himself and those around him, Alf Wight remained an intensely private person, respected and trusted by those whose animals he cared for, and adored by millions of fans. This illuminating biography reveals the real man behind the title 'The World's Most Famous Vet'.


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After qualifying as a vet in 1939, Alf Wight, aka James Herriot, moved to a veterinary practice in Thirsk. He was over fifty when his first book of stories about life as a Yorkshire vet was published, giving birth to some of Yorkshire's most famous and much-loved literary characters. Although he brought fame and fortune to himself and those around him, Alf Wight remained a After qualifying as a vet in 1939, Alf Wight, aka James Herriot, moved to a veterinary practice in Thirsk. He was over fifty when his first book of stories about life as a Yorkshire vet was published, giving birth to some of Yorkshire's most famous and much-loved literary characters. Although he brought fame and fortune to himself and those around him, Alf Wight remained an intensely private person, respected and trusted by those whose animals he cared for, and adored by millions of fans. This illuminating biography reveals the real man behind the title 'The World's Most Famous Vet'.

30 review for The Real James Herriot: The Authorized Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    A glowing and appreciative homage to the late great Alfred Wight (who penned the absolutely delightful All Creatures Great and Small series under the pseudonym of James Herriot) by his son and fellow veterinarian James Wight, and while the author might not possess the same power of penmanship that his father had, The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of my Father truly provides a sweet and loving human portrait, whilst also showing fans of the series instances and anecdotes not covered in the novels A glowing and appreciative homage to the late great Alfred Wight (who penned the absolutely delightful All Creatures Great and Small series under the pseudonym of James Herriot) by his son and fellow veterinarian James Wight, and while the author might not possess the same power of penmanship that his father had, The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of my Father truly provides a sweet and loving human portrait, whilst also showing fans of the series instances and anecdotes not covered in the novels (about Alfred Wight's childhood and his university studies, his parents and their respective families, as well as interesting and welcome informational nuggets regarding some of the many clients/animals presented and depicted in the All Creatures Great and Small novels, what is truth, what is fiction, what has been combined from separate incidents, even occasionally multiple characters who have been merged merged into one entity). Highly recommended, but with the caveat that the narrative of The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of my Father does definitely at times move a bit slowly, choppily and even haltingly (and while this did not and does not bother me personally all that much, I do nevertheless think it should at least be mentioned as a so-called heads-up for potential readers, who might indeed and yes rather wrongfully expect that Jim Wright has been blessed with the same writing and especially storytelling capabilities his late father).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    Alfred Wight. James Herriot. One a real person's name, the other that person's fictional alter ego. Son Jim Wight does a splendid job on this biography, and I am so happy to have read it. I loved it all, from beginning to sometimes surprising middle to tearful end. The book is a loving, respectful portrayal of a man who was much more complex than I ever suspected. He was curious about many things, extremely observant of human nature, considered writing his hobby rather than his reason for being (an Alfred Wight. James Herriot. One a real person's name, the other that person's fictional alter ego. Son Jim Wight does a splendid job on this biography, and I am so happy to have read it. I loved it all, from beginning to sometimes surprising middle to tearful end. The book is a loving, respectful portrayal of a man who was much more complex than I ever suspected. He was curious about many things, extremely observant of human nature, considered writing his hobby rather than his reason for being (and he wrote all of his books in the evenings after work while family life and the tv roared in high gear all around him). He worried about life more than anyone ever thought he did, he loved his dogs as much as any of his clients loved theirs, and he tended to get glassy-eyed whenever mathematics was the topic of conversation or study. He loved football (soccer) and reading and music. And he was just a regular guy his entire life, even after he became famous. James repeatedly says how bemused his father always was about the way the public loved him and his books. I know I treasure all my Herriot titles, and (surprise surprise) I am now going to re-read the whole cycle. I could not possibly stay away, not after spending the last few days with everyone in Skeldale House!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    It was with hesitation that I purchased and eventually picked up this book to actually read. James Herriot is one of my favorite authors of all time. I grew up reading him in middle school, and he's my fall back author for when I'm feeling totally depressed and crapped out. So his books are very meaningful to me, and I was hesitant to discover any back story. This biography was written in chronological order by his son. It probably could have benefited from another format. When the author begins It was with hesitation that I purchased and eventually picked up this book to actually read. James Herriot is one of my favorite authors of all time. I grew up reading him in middle school, and he's my fall back author for when I'm feeling totally depressed and crapped out. So his books are very meaningful to me, and I was hesitant to discover any back story. This biography was written in chronological order by his son. It probably could have benefited from another format. When the author begins talking about the great-grandparents, it's purely derived from letters and distant documentation - not meaningful relationships, so it comes across as clinical and dry. When we finally get to the Herriot side of things, it's titillating but there's a lot withheld. Wight's significant encounter with depression is talked about but I feel like his son was trying to protect his father, so he never is at liberty to actually disclose those tough details. And there's shockingly little about Wight's wife - almost as if she declined to be involved. The ending is tough - do I really want to know what happened to my dear friends? Wight dying painfully of cancer, Donald intentionally overdosing, and Brian dying of disease. Painful, and I almost wish I didn't know just so that I could make believe Herriot's snapshot in time was eternal.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    James Herriot was always an author I really liked, so it's interesting to have some background information and a few backstories of people (and animals) who became characters in his books. Jim Wight does not quite have the flair of his father, but occasionally he tells a story or quotes a letter and that certain something shows through. In a way the biography seems to be a way of making up for the fact that Jim feels he did not recognize or acknowledge his father's writing talent enough. I think James Herriot was always an author I really liked, so it's interesting to have some background information and a few backstories of people (and animals) who became characters in his books. Jim Wight does not quite have the flair of his father, but occasionally he tells a story or quotes a letter and that certain something shows through. In a way the biography seems to be a way of making up for the fact that Jim feels he did not recognize or acknowledge his father's writing talent enough. I think he gives a fair portrait of Herriot (real name: James Alfred "Alf" Wight) and some perceptive insights into what made the man tick. It's interesting to have backstories of some of the originals behind Herriot's more remarkable characters. All the same, it was a bit disappointing to know that the names of Alf's colleagues were not really inspired by Wagnerian opera!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    This book was a very interesting insight into the beloved author and "World's most famous vet". It seems Herriot was every bit as likable in reality as he seems to be in his famous semi-autobiographical books. Herriot's son, Jim Wight tells us proudly of Herriot's successes and unflinchingly of his struggles, which given his very private nature were often completely internalized. As a side bar it is also delightful to have some knowledge of the men on whom Tristan and Sigfried Farnon are based a This book was a very interesting insight into the beloved author and "World's most famous vet". It seems Herriot was every bit as likable in reality as he seems to be in his famous semi-autobiographical books. Herriot's son, Jim Wight tells us proudly of Herriot's successes and unflinchingly of his struggles, which given his very private nature were often completely internalized. As a side bar it is also delightful to have some knowledge of the men on whom Tristan and Sigfried Farnon are based and indeed it sounds like their portrayal in print is mostly spot-on. Right up-front, Wight tells us that he was reluctant to pen a biography about his famous father because he doesn't really consider himself a writer. While it is true that he writes in a different style than his dad, his biography is accessible and interesting to read. For me, he really hits his stride about thirty pages in. In a couple of places, Wight seems to inadvertently fall into the trap of recounting stories we've already heard told so masterfully in Herriot's canon. I feel these time are unfortunate because they don't play to Wight's strengths as an author. And a couple of times, Mr. Wight comes off a tad defensive in tone over some details that I would suppose the misunderstanding of which has been a source of irritation. But these are very minor flaws, and I am grateful that he has shared with us his unique perspective on the life of his father. I believe Mr. Wight provides a wonderfully succinct and insightful epitaph to his father's career as an author on Page 238: [Herriot:] felt compelled to describe the old Yorkshire he had grown to love -- a way of life that was fast disappearing -- and he wanted to preserve it for others to enjoy. And thank god he did! Herriot was always a little bemused by the interest that we Americans showed in his stories about his far-away rustic agricultural community. I must admit I'm bemused by his bemusement! But he supposes at one point the drive behind our attraction to his beloved Yorkshire. He says, in essence that he supposes we are drawn by the quiet, slow-paced, old fashioned ways that contrast so sharply with the face-paced, industrialized lifestyle which most Americans live. It is an accurate supposition, I think. What a remarkable man. What remarkable stories. What a remarkable legacy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    You think you know James Herriot by reading All Creatures Great and Small and all the other books he wrote, but, you haven't really known him until you see him through his son's eyes. Jim Wight has written a marvelous memoir of his dad. If one can have said of himself that he refused to let fame go to his head, that his family was the most important thing he had, and that his love for his work showed in every word he wrote, he lived a good life. James Alfred Wight, James Herriot, lived a good li You think you know James Herriot by reading All Creatures Great and Small and all the other books he wrote, but, you haven't really known him until you see him through his son's eyes. Jim Wight has written a marvelous memoir of his dad. If one can have said of himself that he refused to let fame go to his head, that his family was the most important thing he had, and that his love for his work showed in every word he wrote, he lived a good life. James Alfred Wight, James Herriot, lived a good life. He's left an excellent example of manhood for generations to follow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Willa Guadalupe Grant

    I wish I had not read this book. Not because it was not well written, though his son certainly lacks his father's flair, but because it was TMI. I had LOVED James Herriot's books, I read them again & again & laughed myself sick over them. The reality of the man's life was quite different. If you like and/or admire James Herriot's books I strongly urge you not to read this biography. I wish I had not read this book. Not because it was not well written, though his son certainly lacks his father's flair, but because it was TMI. I had LOVED James Herriot's books, I read them again & again & laughed myself sick over them. The reality of the man's life was quite different. If you like and/or admire James Herriot's books I strongly urge you not to read this biography.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Luann

    Jim Wight has written a moving tribute to his father, James Alfred Wight, known as James Herriot to millions of fans around the world. At times it felt too long and detailed, but then he would catch my interest again with a funny or interesting story that hadn't been shared in any of the James Herriot books. In places it was quite reminiscent of the autobiographies of Dick Francis and Roald Dahl who shared some similar experiences - especially during the war. In fact, Dick Francis is mentioned s Jim Wight has written a moving tribute to his father, James Alfred Wight, known as James Herriot to millions of fans around the world. At times it felt too long and detailed, but then he would catch my interest again with a funny or interesting story that hadn't been shared in any of the James Herriot books. In places it was quite reminiscent of the autobiographies of Dick Francis and Roald Dahl who shared some similar experiences - especially during the war. In fact, Dick Francis is mentioned several times and is even in one of the pictures. He says: “Dick Francis, author of many best-selling books about the world of horse racing, was one of the most famous people Alf got to know well and he was probably one of his favourites – a modest and charming man with whom he kept in touch throughout their almost parallel climb up the ladder of fame.” I particularly enjoyed the personal memories shared by Wight about his father and others well-known from the books. He quoted from diaries and letters written by his father and even included a few love letters Alf wrote to his wife. There are also 16 pages of family photos. It was very interesting to find out what bits were real in the books and what had been changed. Mostly only the names of the people and the settings were changed. The stories James Herriot told in his books were all based on actual events. The last paragraph in the book says: "James Herriot, the unassuming veterinary surgeon who enthralled millions, was no fictional character. There was a man I knew, who possessed all the virtues of the famous veterinarian - and more. A totally honest man whose fine sense of humour and air of goodwill towards others ensured that he was respected by all who knew him. A man on whom, after his death, a Yorkshire farmer delivered his final verdict: 'Aye, he were a right decent feller.' That man was James Alfred Wight." If you are a James Herriot fan, I highly recommend this book. Now I need to go find a copy of James Herriot's Yorkshire.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Moses Operandi

    Jim Wight tells his father's story with humor, compassion, and candor. Although I was mortified when I first learned that 'James Herriot' was not the real name of the author who had since childhood enthralled me with beautifully written stories of the strong bonds between the human and animal worlds, I realize now that this was a selfish attitude--I did not want 'James Herriot' to protect himself and his friends from the inevitable media coverage that resulted from his multi-million book sales, Jim Wight tells his father's story with humor, compassion, and candor. Although I was mortified when I first learned that 'James Herriot' was not the real name of the author who had since childhood enthralled me with beautifully written stories of the strong bonds between the human and animal worlds, I realize now that this was a selfish attitude--I did not want 'James Herriot' to protect himself and his friends from the inevitable media coverage that resulted from his multi-million book sales, I wanted his real name so that he would in fact be the man I read about. I realize now that his rejection of the public approach chosen by many authors only shows that he was a far more real person, and that his stories came just as much from his memories as they did from his heart. Jim Wight's biography is not truly surprising--I would have worried, had it been. We KNOW James Herriot from his books; this just fleshes out the story a bit, and in that Jim Wight succeeds admirably. From the irrepressible antics of 'Siegfried' and 'Tristan' to his own unique mind, James Herriot's stories thrilled us, and Jim Wight brings that man into the realm of hard truth. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    April

    I grew up reading and rereading James Herriot's books. Learning about the man behind the story from his son was great. Although Jim Wight is not the author his father was, he does a job that is just fine. We learn more about Alf (James Herriot's real name) and his life. We learn that the stories he wrote are based on real life, real character that Alf and the people around him knew and experienced. We learn that Alf's life was not always as great as he led us to believe. We learn about his journ I grew up reading and rereading James Herriot's books. Learning about the man behind the story from his son was great. Although Jim Wight is not the author his father was, he does a job that is just fine. We learn more about Alf (James Herriot's real name) and his life. We learn that the stories he wrote are based on real life, real character that Alf and the people around him knew and experienced. We learn that Alf's life was not always as great as he led us to believe. We learn about his journey to and through authorship. He's an interesting person. Fun to read for anyone who want to know more about the world's favorite vet.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Dawe

    This book well captures the spirit of "The Real James Herriot," Alf Wight, in its humour and sentimentality. It was often hilarious, and offered a candid look into Mr. Wight's life as both vet and author. My only complaint is that some sentments were oft repeated creating a longer book than neccessary.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Hollandbeck

    What's not to love? The biography of a warm, intelligent, sensitive, observant man who gave the world warm, intelligent, sensitive, and observant stories from his veterinary practice in the mid-twentieth century, this detailed picture was written by is son, who follows in his father's steps in recording a life well-lived. It was a joy to read about the real people behind Herriott's tales.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    This book is the life story of “James Herriot”, whose real name was Alf Wight, written by his son, and it was a seriously delightful book. James Herriot has to be one of the most beloved authors in history, and the delightful thing about this book is that it shows the person behind the books was just as good as the books! Alf Wight as he is described in this book was a kind, funny, hard-working man who stayed humble even when he (finally) became very successful. He loved his work, he loved his fa This book is the life story of “James Herriot”, whose real name was Alf Wight, written by his son, and it was a seriously delightful book. James Herriot has to be one of the most beloved authors in history, and the delightful thing about this book is that it shows the person behind the books was just as good as the books! Alf Wight as he is described in this book was a kind, funny, hard-working man who stayed humble even when he (finally) became very successful. He loved his work, he loved his family, and he loved writing. According to his son, the stories were all either true, or else heavily based on true stories with just a few details changed. James Wight writes like his father! That was really surprising. Not exactly like, of course, but enough like. He has the same open, inviting, amused tone. I don’t know if he’s written anything else or not, but I’m going to find out! One last thing. I read this book at the same time I was reading Prairie Fires, the biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura Ingalls Wilder came off as boring and slightly annoying, while Alf Wight came off even more interesting than I would have expected — and a decent human being as well! (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose, by the way, is even worse than her mother, a manipulative egomaniac with really bad judgment.) I used to want to go visit all the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites, but that urge has kind of dissipated after reading the book, while my previously non-existent desire to visit James Herriot’s Yorkshire is now burning strong. Goes to show how powerful a good book can be!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kim Hampton

    A beautiful tribute to veterinarian and author James Herriot by his only son. James Alfred Wight was the real name of the man who would become the most famous vet in the world and bring Yorkshire to life for fans all over the world. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of his life from the person who probably knew him best.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    have been a fan of James Herriott books all my life watch films, tv series and was saddened by Alf Wight death. This book could onlty have been written by someone very close to him and was apt this was written by his son. I was eager to read this and what a story, with so many surprises too, I always thought he was born in Glasgow but he was a macham (born in Sunderland) although he lived and studied in Glasgow. The book fills in the gaps and gives the reader a greater understanding of this vet fi have been a fan of James Herriott books all my life watch films, tv series and was saddened by Alf Wight death. This book could onlty have been written by someone very close to him and was apt this was written by his son. I was eager to read this and what a story, with so many surprises too, I always thought he was born in Glasgow but he was a macham (born in Sunderland) although he lived and studied in Glasgow. The book fills in the gaps and gives the reader a greater understanding of this vet first and writer second. He practiced in a time before antibiotics and technology. It was aparent that it was not plain sailing for Alf (Herriot) to get his books published and I am sure now the publishers who rejected the vet books are still reeling from this. A wonderful insight into a wonderful man, family, Yorkshire and a great loss to the world of books. Well written and a joy to read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    There are two authors on the top of my personal favorites list. One is Sebastian Barry and the other is James Herriot. I devoured everything JH wrote in my younger years, so when we planned our four week return to England, I just had to visit his house/surgery in adorable Thirsk. It was such a moving experience for me. I was one of the Americans who loved his stories about animals and people with a passion. I laughed and cried my way through the books by this beloved writer. It's only fitting hi There are two authors on the top of my personal favorites list. One is Sebastian Barry and the other is James Herriot. I devoured everything JH wrote in my younger years, so when we planned our four week return to England, I just had to visit his house/surgery in adorable Thirsk. It was such a moving experience for me. I was one of the Americans who loved his stories about animals and people with a passion. I laughed and cried my way through the books by this beloved writer. It's only fitting his son should tell the story of his Dad. His admiration and love soak the pages. There are some surprises in this book; they made me appreciate and love (JH) even more. Now I must read his books again. Yorkshire was just as gorgeous as he said it was. I highly recommend The World of James Herriot for anyone in the area. It's an interesting time capsule of the 1940-50s if you're a fan or not. IF you're a fan, it's an absolute must! So is this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mike Reinking

    A Life Well Lived -and Well Accounted A very enjoyable biography of the real James Herriot - Alf Wight. His son Jim does an excellent job detailing the life of his father and the wonderful man that he was. Great stories recounting a very humble, happy, and generous vet.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jan J

    Loved it! I'm ready to go to Yorkshire!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bob Anderson

    So the popular books by James Herriot, novels which told the story of a country veterinarian charting a course through the changing times of the modern world with humor and heart-felt passion, were in fact written by a man named James Alfred Wight. The exact nature of them had been questioned in the past: were they fully fictional beyond the grain of truth given by Herriot’s veterinary background, or did each story have authenticity of its own? This book, by Alf’s son, Jim Wight, attempts to dis So the popular books by James Herriot, novels which told the story of a country veterinarian charting a course through the changing times of the modern world with humor and heart-felt passion, were in fact written by a man named James Alfred Wight. The exact nature of them had been questioned in the past: were they fully fictional beyond the grain of truth given by Herriot’s veterinary background, or did each story have authenticity of its own? This book, by Alf’s son, Jim Wight, attempts to dispel most of the mystery created by these pseudonymous books. The first chapter of Herriot’s first book (I will use Herriot for the subject in his literary capacity, Alf for the personal, and Wight for the biographer, Alf’s son), depicting an absolute ordeal of a calving gone wrong, gripped my instantly when I first read All Creatures Great and Small; I was glad to learn that nearly every story in these books was an actual events in Alf’s life, though rearranged for best narrative effect. This peeling back of the curtain, especially from such an intimately privileged position (Wight was not just Alf’s son but also worked in the same veterinary practice as his father), reveals some details that, even if one took the Herriot books at face value, would surprise a reader. Alf’s depression, and his spat with his partner (and inspiration for Siegfried) over his portrayal in the books, were fascinating glimpses behind the scenes. Wight writes about this with care and taste, not revealing details just to be salacious or to sell more copies, but to make the portrait of his father whole. The use of archived material from his father’s life (Alf was a prolific letter writer) helps to make the narrative come alive, and the photo spread is particularly nice. Wight writes competently, though not with as much flair as his father; he shares some Herriot’s knack at inspiring emotion. Some readers of Herriot’s novels may not appreciate a book that tells about how principal characters from those books met their deaths in the real world, but for me the principe of approaching death in a direct way is a key feature of the James Herriot experience. If you love those books, read this one. If you get bored with childhood stories, skip around until you first meet a character you particularly enjoyed in Herriot’s books, whether it was a human or a dog. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the world behind those books, the stories told within, and even some new ones that weren’t ever written but just passed down though

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linore

    For the James Herriot fan, this book is as good as it gets next to having another Herriot book. Written by the son of James Herriot, Jim Wight is not the writer his father was, but the stories in the book that run along the same vein are entertaining and informing; however, the book is a biography of James Herriot, not a memoir of the veterinary life; the few stories included are fun, but incidental. I recommend reading at least one of the wonderful books by Herriot before reading this. Yes, you' For the James Herriot fan, this book is as good as it gets next to having another Herriot book. Written by the son of James Herriot, Jim Wight is not the writer his father was, but the stories in the book that run along the same vein are entertaining and informing; however, the book is a biography of James Herriot, not a memoir of the veterinary life; the few stories included are fun, but incidental. I recommend reading at least one of the wonderful books by Herriot before reading this. Yes, you've read the Herriot books already--I know, I have too, numerous times. Read one again. It will make this book all the more poignant and meaningful to be closer to the characters when you encounter them in their "real lives" here. (I re-read EVERY LIVING THING.) As a writer, I found highly fascinating the account of Herriot's literary rise to success. Much is included here, from how book titles were settled upon, to the names of editors and decisions all along the way that spurred the country vet to world-wide fame. We get an excellent picture of how it all happened, the dips and high points, and how Herriot handled it all. My respect for him has only grown after reading about the "real man," and I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to join the thousands of fans who flocked to Yorkshire to meet the author before his time was up. Small detractions exist: There are moments when one feels the writer was padding the text to make it longer (much is made of the fact that American readers seem to want longer, fatter books than Brits, for instance.) And oddly missing is a look at the real Helen (Joan Wight), or Herriot's children, including, even, the author. You don't finish the book feeling that you know him, which is not all that surprising since communicating feelings for this family comes across as laborious, or stilted. Perhaps it's just the way of the British, but there is an odd lack of warmth. Not a single picture of Joan before her marriage is included, and not one close up of Rosie as an adult. Nevertheless, a very good picture of James Herriot, the real man, emerges. And that's the real point of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    A well-written, loving portrait of an extraordinarily gifted writer and an even more gifted veterinarian by James Herriot's son. Although most readers probably feel they know James Alfred "Alf" Wight by reading the stories by his alter ego, James Herriot, this biography offers a more complete picture of a sensitive, complex man. Wight's various health problems including a bout with depression lasting a couple of years are covered as well as his abbreviated career in the RAF during World War II. A well-written, loving portrait of an extraordinarily gifted writer and an even more gifted veterinarian by James Herriot's son. Although most readers probably feel they know James Alfred "Alf" Wight by reading the stories by his alter ego, James Herriot, this biography offers a more complete picture of a sensitive, complex man. Wight's various health problems including a bout with depression lasting a couple of years are covered as well as his abbreviated career in the RAF during World War II. The author discusses Alf's relationships with his fellow vets Donald Sinclair (Siegfried Farnon) and Brian Sinclair (Tristan) in some detail, including a time during which Donald threatened to sue Alf because he was not happy with his portrayal in the movie All Creatures Great and Small. Alf was devastated to have hurt his friend, and from then on, he toned down the mercurial character of Siegfried in his books, although Donald was truly an eccentric. The author also describes his father's courtship of his mother, his father's canine companions throughout the years, and how and why he came up with the name James Herriot as a pseudonym.The humble nature of Alf led him to frequently say that he was 99% a veterinary surgeon and 1% an author, although it was his books and world-wide fame that brought him financial security. I have loved all of the James Herriot books, because of his obvious deep affection for animals and their human owners and because of the love he had for the countryside in which he lived and worked. This book gave me an appreciation for the man behind the stories--self-effacing, humorous, private, caring, and decent--a man who will live on for a long, long time because of his beautiful writing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dina Tanners

    I have been a fan of James Herriot's books for years so when I found this book in a library sale, I quickly bought it. I was not disappointed. The author Jim Wight does not have the writing skills of his father, but it still is a compelling read. James Herriot's real name is Alf Wight. He took the pseudonym from a soccer player (who played on a team he liked) as he wanted to stay as anonymous as possible. In the book, I learned of his childhood, how hard his parents worked to assure that their onl I have been a fan of James Herriot's books for years so when I found this book in a library sale, I quickly bought it. I was not disappointed. The author Jim Wight does not have the writing skills of his father, but it still is a compelling read. James Herriot's real name is Alf Wight. He took the pseudonym from a soccer player (who played on a team he liked) as he wanted to stay as anonymous as possible. In the book, I learned of his childhood, how hard his parents worked to assure that their only child had a good education, how he chose to be a vet, his schooling, how he got started in the practice that he stayed with for the rest of his life, his family, and how he wrote his books, and how they ended up being published. I also learned more about the area where he lived, the people and the customs there, and the changing world of being a vet in England in the 1950s and 60s. The book really did an excellent job of portraying the writer. Herriot/Wight worked extremely hard. He was gifted with a portable typewriter and late at night he used to pound out his stories. Writing was just one of the many "hobbies" that Herriot tried, but it turned out to be the most successful and ended up helping the family to have financial stability. I was amazed at the number of tourists that have visited his home and workplace.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    James Wight is a good author - not great, like his father, but certainly good- and handles his father's life with care. It didn't come across as some sort of money-grubbing book to milk his father's fame, but as a sincere way to preserve his father's memory and show the world who is beloved father really was. He said that he never properly told his father how much he meant to him, and it seems like this book was made to make up for that. While it was sad to see the darker sides of these beloved James Wight is a good author - not great, like his father, but certainly good- and handles his father's life with care. It didn't come across as some sort of money-grubbing book to milk his father's fame, but as a sincere way to preserve his father's memory and show the world who is beloved father really was. He said that he never properly told his father how much he meant to him, and it seems like this book was made to make up for that. While it was sad to see the darker sides of these beloved 'characters,' I thought it was also important to realize James Herriot was actually a real person, a veterinarian with struggles, not some idealized veterinarian that all vet students seem to want to be. I do love returning to his books, to cheer me up and help me stay motivated in my own journey to becoming a veterinarian, but it was actually (maybe morbidly?) comforting to know 'James Herriot' had his own problems in life and his own journey wasn't as whimsical and magical as his books sometimes make it seem. (Not that I'm happy he suffered, but it's nice to see that he wasn't some miraculous superhero, and that someone not perfect can still make such a huge impact on the world)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    This authorized biography by Jim Wight, son of James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pen name of James Herriot, is amazingly well written. Based on letters and records saved by the family over the years, it begins with the lives of Mr. Herriot's parents and concludes well after his death. Both the author of this book and his father, the author of the "All Creatures Great and Small" series are/were working veterinarians (not veterans, as my dental hygienist believed, when I told him they were " This authorized biography by Jim Wight, son of James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pen name of James Herriot, is amazingly well written. Based on letters and records saved by the family over the years, it begins with the lives of Mr. Herriot's parents and concludes well after his death. Both the author of this book and his father, the author of the "All Creatures Great and Small" series are/were working veterinarians (not veterans, as my dental hygienist believed, when I told him they were "vets.") I have long loved the "All Creatures Great and Small" series, which I began watching as a TV series on PBS decades ago, and am now finishing through Netflix. Therefore, I am biased about this book, as it is about a world which had already captured my fancy. Undoubtedly, one would have to be a James Herriot fan to appreciate it. I found that there is one book written in Mr. Herriot's later life about which I had not previously known that I have yet to read. I am looking forward to it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    MaryJane Rings

    This is an excellent biography of a man who was a veterinary surgeon and later on in his life a best selling author. As a young veterinary surgeon, he practiced before the advent of modern treatments and antibiotics. He established a wonderful rapport with farmers and their animals in Yorkshire,England. He was willing to drive many miles in all weather conditions to answer the calls of the his clients, human or beast. As the times and treatments changed, he studied, learned from the student assi This is an excellent biography of a man who was a veterinary surgeon and later on in his life a best selling author. As a young veterinary surgeon, he practiced before the advent of modern treatments and antibiotics. He established a wonderful rapport with farmers and their animals in Yorkshire,England. He was willing to drive many miles in all weather conditions to answer the calls of the his clients, human or beast. As the times and treatments changed, he studied, learned from the student assistants who worked in the practice and remained at the top of his field. His personal life was very much the same as his veterinary practice. He was always kind to the people around him and concerned for their welfare. No matter how famous he became he always considered himself a veterinary surgeon and family man first. His son has written an inspiring book about the man whom he called father.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lauryn Kavanagh-Coombes

    This book is a must-read for any Herriot fan. Alf was right - there is no one better to write his biography than his son. Jim provides a personal viewpoint on many of the most well-known Herriot tales, having heard and even experienced so many of them first hand, and helps us get to know the true people behind the characters we all thought we knew so well from books and television. He writes the early chapters of Alf's childhood and schooling from Alf's viewpoint very well. His many hours of fam This book is a must-read for any Herriot fan. Alf was right - there is no one better to write his biography than his son. Jim provides a personal viewpoint on many of the most well-known Herriot tales, having heard and even experienced so many of them first hand, and helps us get to know the true people behind the characters we all thought we knew so well from books and television. He writes the early chapters of Alf's childhood and schooling from Alf's viewpoint very well. His many hours of family history research have paid off. The book flows through the decades of the 20th century very smoothly, and you find yourself reading about the last days of Alf's life feeling very nostalgic and moved, having experienced every day of his life through Jim's very well-written words. Highly recommended book for any Herriot fan.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This book is for anyone who has loved the All Creatures Great and Small stories by James Herriot (i.e. James Alfred "Alf" Wight). The biography is written by Wight’s son, who is also a veterinary surgeon. It tells of his father's childhood years, his training at the Veterinary College in Glasgow, and his partnership/friendship with the Sinclair brothers (aka Siegfried and Tristan Farnon). But the last third of the book was the most interesting to me because it describes Alf Wight's early attempt This book is for anyone who has loved the All Creatures Great and Small stories by James Herriot (i.e. James Alfred "Alf" Wight). The biography is written by Wight’s son, who is also a veterinary surgeon. It tells of his father's childhood years, his training at the Veterinary College in Glasgow, and his partnership/friendship with the Sinclair brothers (aka Siegfried and Tristan Farnon). But the last third of the book was the most interesting to me because it describes Alf Wight's early attempts at writing and how he turned his years of veterinary experience and humorous observations into a series of beloved books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Valeri

    To compare and expect Jim to write like his father is an unfair expectation. Having said that, however, Mr. Herriot's son may have inherited his love and knowledge of veterinary science, he unfortunately did not pick up any of his (or anybody else's) writing skills. I was hoping for an interesting inside look at James Alfred Wight's real life, only to be muddled down in the younger Jim's heavy handed (though earnest attempt) at writing it. I made it about halfway through, reading passages that I To compare and expect Jim to write like his father is an unfair expectation. Having said that, however, Mr. Herriot's son may have inherited his love and knowledge of veterinary science, he unfortunately did not pick up any of his (or anybody else's) writing skills. I was hoping for an interesting inside look at James Alfred Wight's real life, only to be muddled down in the younger Jim's heavy handed (though earnest attempt) at writing it. I made it about halfway through, reading passages that I could find almost verbatim pages before, when I finally threw in the towel on this disappointingly boring book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alaine

    Got up to 32% of the way through when I quit. I thought the vet school stuff was rambly and took up too much time. We finally got to the "Darrowby" days and most of the stories were just slightly different versions of the fictionalized ones I already read in James Herriot's books. However, I did find out that Skeldale House was actually 23 Kirkgate, Thrisk, UK. That's probably not the correctly written address but it's enough to pull it up on Google Maps. That was more entertaining than the book Got up to 32% of the way through when I quit. I thought the vet school stuff was rambly and took up too much time. We finally got to the "Darrowby" days and most of the stories were just slightly different versions of the fictionalized ones I already read in James Herriot's books. However, I did find out that Skeldale House was actually 23 Kirkgate, Thrisk, UK. That's probably not the correctly written address but it's enough to pull it up on Google Maps. That was more entertaining than the book so far. There's a World of James Herriot you can visit, and they have a website. Life is too short for dull books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna Kremer

    I enjoyed the story of James Herriot and especially that he took his passion of writing and made it more than just a hobby—while in his 50’s! I look forward to rereading his books, set in the bucolic countryside of Yorkshire. The last part of this book was begging for only 2 stars as it turned into a mundane diary fixated on deaths of people and pets.

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