The name Alf Wight may not ring too many bells, but as James Herriot--the author who brought the British countryside into millions of homes--Wight certainly made an impressive mark. He grew up in Glasgow and enjoyed a boisterous childhood before deciding to embark on many years of training at the Glasgow Veterinary College. Wight finally qualified as a vet in 1939 and moved to the Yorkshire town of Thirsk to accept a position as assistant to Dr. Donald Sinclair--the man known to millions of readers as Siegfried Farnan.
The story of the young vet travelling to Thirsk (a.k.a. Darrowby) was immortalized in Herriot's bestselling books. But The Real James Herriot, Jim Wight's affectionate biography of his father, tells the story of the man behind the nom de plume, who worked in the same practice for over 50 years and was relatively untouched and unimpressed by his fame as an author. Wight the younger (who followed in his father's footsteps and later joined the practice in Thirsk), is undoubtedly the best person to reveal the depths of a man whose public persona was as respected and trusted as the real man who tended to animals in and around the small Yorkshire village where he lived until the day he died. Written with a tenderness that does nothing to detract from the honesty of the book, The Real James Herriot is a fitting, poignant, and often gently humorous portrait of a man who brought so much pleasure through his writing while remaining consistently faithful to the profession that was, ultimately, his first and last love. --Susan Harrison, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
When world-famous veterinary surgeon James Herriot died in 1995, the bestselling Yorkshire country animal doctor was known to millions of fans through his books and the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, although the inner man has remained elusive. Now Wight--Herriot's son and a veterinary surgeon himself, who worked in his father's practice and accompanied him on his rounds from the age of two--has written an affectionate, candid biography revealing many sides of Herriot unfamiliar to his fans. "Alf," as he was known to family and friends, was born James Alfred Wight (Herriot was a pseudonym) in England's industrial northeast, not in Scotland as many readers assume--though he spent his formative years in Glasgow and went to veterinary college there. His escapades as a carousing, lackluster veterinary student recall National Lampoon's Animal House. Herriot's many endearing tales of dogs and cats notwithstanding, he mainly treated large farm animals, branching out into pets later in his career. Wight portrays his father as a modest, down-to-earth and generous man, utterly unchanged by fame, a private individual who bottled up his emotions, which led to a nervous breakdown and electroshock therapy in 1960. This ebullient, moving biography, a worthy addition to the Herriot saga, shares many of the same qualities as the beloved vet's books: keen observation of human nature, gentle humor, vivid personalities (including the real-life people behind Herriot's semifictionalized characters) and lots of heartwarming anecdotes. Wight rounds out this solid bio with intimate details on Alf's writing career, the making of All Creatures (motion picture and TV series) and an account of his father's final brave battle against cancer. Photos.
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