Britain. Land of febrile uncertainty at the moment as the Brexit cliff edge approaches. A land where according to reports the government is actually stockpiling canned food in the event of a hard Brexit (I was at the Post Office cum grocery store in Sully last week and I actually looked at the canned items on offer as I was waiting in the queue thinking whether I should start a stockpile now. Didn’t buy anything but the fact that I considered it says all you need to know about Britain today)And yet Britain is also a place you can ask the questions which other places would consider you mad for asking them. So to repeat the title of this post:
Why in Britain do vets bother to write autobiographies?
I ask this question as it occurred to me whilst reading Tales from a Young Vet by Jo Hardy (co/ghost? written by Caro Handley) Ms Hardy was a star of the BBC Two series “Young Vets”. It was a series that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. But that doesn’t matter. As regular readers of this blog will know I wouldn’t have been it’s target audience.
But anyway the problem Ms Hardy has is this. For the general reader, and probably uniquely in any aspect of literature one man stands as a colossus. In the sub genre that is veterinary autobiography one man alone is used as comparison to any new writer’s work. The Dostoevsky of doggies the Pushkin of the Pussy Cats he is the star others try to reach.
I am of course talking of James Herriot.
Even in this book he’s mentioned in the blurb where being a trainee vet is described as not “as easy as James Herriot made it seem”. Really?
As a child/teenager I read some of James Herriot’s books and whilst not for a moment did it make me consider vetenarionship as a profession I did enjoy them as a reader for reasons I’ll be mentioning in the next few paragraphs.
Whilst it would be wrong to say Ms Hardy’s book is bad. It does not compare well when facing the Herriotian hurdle of comparison. It’s biggest flaw is that it seems too rushed. One moment we’re at a surgery, then in South Africa then back in Britain in a stable/zoo etc. This did not happen in the James Herriot books. We were in the Yorkshire Dales and that was that.
This rushing also applies to characters. People are introduced then ignored only to turn up chapters later. James Herriot probably subconsciously knew that the weirdest animals were humans. So there was a regular cast around the Herriotmeister a sort of mini drama when the other animals were not around.
It would appear that the only way Ms Hardy could go away from the shadow of James Herriot was to literally go away. Her next book is set in Africa. In writing terms the logic is simple “How can you be compared to James Herriot when you’re in a completely different continent with completely different problems? It’s an approach certainly. Whether successful is a different issue.
For the moment James Herriot rules.
Until the next time.