Thursday, June 29, 2017

James Herriot's Wonderful Books--A Review

"I'm never at my best in the early morning, especially a cold morning in the Yorkshire spring with a piercing March wind sweeping down from the fells, finding its way inside my clothing, nipping at my nose and ears."
James Herriot 

 Have you read James Herriot? When I was a teenager, my mother bought his now famous "All Creatures Great and Small" debut novel/memoir, and I borrowed it. Since then, I have read this book at least five times, and of course I have my own treasured copy.  

 I used public transportation a lot back then. Riding on the metro bus in NYC, I passed time by reading. Herriot was so hilarious at times that I laughed out loud on crowded buses--and didn't care what people thought, which was unusual for self-conscious me.
A gifted writer, Herriot's books are astonishingly charming true stories of his life as a vet in the early nineteenth century in Yorkshire, England. Having read all his books more than once,  I learned things that came in handy when I later wrote my own novels set in England, though not in Yorkshire. 
There aren't many books I can read again and again. Herriot's are exceptions. They'll have you laughing your sides off,  squirming,  re-reading passages for sheer pleasure, and shaking your head at characters. (Animals are characters in their own right, and you'll learn much about cattle, birthing livestock, pigs and dogs, to name a few.) 
My favorite of his, and the creme de la creme, in my opinion, is All Things Bright and Beautiful.  Some of the funniest moments I have ever read in literature are in this book.
The PBS series ("All Creatures Great and Small") drew on material from the books, but I never was able to really appreciate the adaptations. The characters in the book were so strongly drawn in my mind  that the actors couldn't compare. I've only seen a handful of episodes.     
The beauty of the books is that each chapter is a perfect little story of its own, and you can read them that way; but together the story of Herriot's life unfolds, always with unflinching honesty, self-effacing humor, and above all, great affection for the people, places, and animals he lived and worked among.  You will never feel the same about the beautiful northern area that is Yorkshire. 
I seldom recommend books with such glowing assurance--but Herriot's have brought me so many happy hours that I would be unjust not to. Millions of people have made the trek to Yorkshire just to visit his now famous "surgery" (the vet's office) and the countryside he so wonderfully depicts in the stories.  

If you take the plunge into his world, here are a few tips:
1. Some people find the dialect of the dales off-putting. My advice is to stick with it. You'll soon understand and enjoy it.
2. Read the books in the order they were written. Herriot borrowed a famous poem to title his works, but the first book in the series is not the first line of the poem. Here's the proper order to read them in: 
            All Creatures Great and Small
            All Things Bright and Beautiful
            All Things Wise and Wonderful
            The Lord God Made Them All
            (Much later) Every Living Thing
Eventually more books came out of these stories, including ones for children, for dog lovers, or horse lovers, but these first are not to be missed! 
A note for Christian readers--Despite the titles, Herriot's books are not "Christian" books. That is, he avoids the subject of God almost entirely. He spends a great deal of time admiring Creation up in those dales and "fells" but seems to have kept a strict policy of leaving religion out of his writing.   Just FYI.
If the Herriot books seem too "tame" for you, try my latest apocalyptic/suspense YA series.
To See Book One--PULSE--Click Here
PS: I'm preparing a coaching program for new writers who want to write and publish a book, but haven't found a way to follow through and do it. I'll hold your hand through the process--all the way from idea (or first draft) to published novel. I can only take on 12 people or less. Let me know if you might be interested and I'll send you the details.. Email me: Linore(at)LinoreBurkard(dot)com. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Novel Rocket: How Not to Do A Critique

Novel Rocket: How Not to Do A Critique: By Linore Rose Burkard, @LinoreRBurkard

Seasoned writers know that having one's work critiqued by fellow writers (or even savvy readers) can determine the difference between a finished piece that is merely "good," or one that sings. ...

[click the title to read more]