Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Books 47 & 48 of 2015: Vet Behind The Ears by Christopher Timothy & How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light... by Johann Peter Hebel

This week I'm review two pretty short books, both of which I was able to read in a single day and both of which were selected for the 2015 Reading Challenge.

First up is Vet Behind The Ears by Christopher Timothy, the star of TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small'. This book was selected for Week 26: A memoir; it recounts his time in the TV series beginning with getting the role and going through some of the ups and downs of filming.

As I mentioned above, this wasn't a long read (I'll admit, this was part of my reason for choosing it, I'd fallen a little behind on my challenge reads and was keen to find a few books to get me back on track). It clocks in at about 128 pages and I happened upon it by chance in a charity shop some time ago.

This was an interesting book and I enjoyed learning more about Christopher Timothy, who is pretty much the person that I picture when I think of James Herriot, thanks to the TV series. When I was reading the James Herriot books, it was Timothy who I was picturing in my head as I read. It was also nice to hear about the making of All Creatures Great and Small, especially as I've been to the James Herriot Experience in Thirsk and been able to see the sets described in the book.

I did find that the narrative jumped around a little, so you'd be reading about one thing and then the next minute it had moved on to something else before going back again. It was a little jarring at times but didn't make the book unreadable.

Personally, I would have liked a few more anecdotes about the making of the TV series. It began going right back to Timothy's childhood and then hurried forward to the series. I'd have liked to read the usual things you get in these books; funny stories from set, near disasters, changes which had to be made and the like. It's not that you didn't get them, there just weren't quite enough for my liking.

I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who's a fan of the TV series. If you've only ever read the James Herriot books, wait to read this one until you've seen the show.

I followed up Vet Behind the Ears with one of the books from the Penguin Little Black Classics collection, the rather lengthily titled How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher's Dog (which certainly qualifies as the longest titled book I read last year). This is by Johann Peter Hebel and was originally published in 1811.

This was my selection for Week 27 of the Reading Challenge: A book you can finish in a day. It's not one I'd read before but I knew that at 55 pages, I'd not have any trouble steaming through it. If I'd had a chance to pick up a copy I probably would've gone for Esio Tror by Roald Dahl, which I used to read in one go any night that I couldn't get to sleep as a child.

It's a little collection of very short stories which deal mostly with criminals, fraudsters, murder and disaster and honestly I think it is probably my favourite 'little black classic' so far. Of the whole book I had two favourites 'One Word Leads To Another' and 'The Lightest Death Sentence' though I won't elaborate on them here because they're really not long and I don't want to spoil them for future readers.

I felt like this was the perfect format for these short books; they seem really well suited to these little collections of short stories. And some of them were very short, not more than a page or two. But it worked well and you felt like you were getting a nice mix of stories in a compact little book.

My one complaint with this book, which I understand is entirely due to its age and the time when it was originally written, is the anti-Jewish sentiment in several of the stories. On the whole the stories are enjoyable and they usually come bundled with some sort of moral lesson for the reader.

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