Pets in a Pickle

Published October 20, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Pets in a Pickle by Malcolm Welshman

Overview from Drawing on his own experiences of working as a vet, Malcolm Welshman brings to life a wealth of colorful characters—including the formidable practice receptionist, Beryl, with her one steely eye—and an ark’s worth of marvelous animals. As enchanting as it is funny, this wonderful story will delight any animal fan. When Paul Mitchell arrives for his first day’s work at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital, he never expects this. On his very first day, he is bitten by a feisty hamster, but this is a mere prelude to a cavalcade of hilarious—and often painful—encounters with fish, flesh, and fowl. From stalking a feral cat to rescuing a cow stuck in a gravel pit, life is never short of animal adventures for the newly qualified vet. On top of treating all manner of creatures at the practice, Paul and his girlfriend Lucy also nurse a host of waifs and strays back to health at their home. Besides six budgerigars, two love birds, a hoard of guinea pigs, and three tabby cats, their menagerie includes Gertie the Goose, whose talent for house security saves her from the Christmas Day table, and Nelson, their lovable—and stone deaf—Jack Russell.

My Review:

Pets in a Pickle was presented as an animal book when I downloaded it as a Free Friday offering from Barnes & Noble. It is actually much more.

I had expected that the best I could hope for from this one was that I would be mildly amusing but it was downright funny as well as touching. This is the first book that I have ever read about a veterinarian’s life and wasn’t sure what to expect but it really surprised me that I liked it as much as I did.

Our main character is living in Britain in 2004 and has just graduated from veterinary school. He is offered a job in some small town and he immediately takes it though not with some misgivings. Yet, it seems he does not have any better offers and so he accepts the job, hoping to make the best of it—whatever comes his way.

His name is Paul Mitchell which I found funny. I am guessing that Paul Mitchell styling products are not that well-known in England or else the author would have chosen another name for the protagonist. But after I got used to the name, I discovered that Paul was a very likeable character who loved animals so much that he never dreamed of doing any other kind of work.

This is good news both for himself as well as Lucy, an office coworker, who shortly after the story starts becomes his live-in girlfriend. Lucy might be the only person in the office who seems to like animals even more than Paul does as she keeps convincing him to take more and more of them in until he has his own little menagerie of them. Even their Christmas goose ends up becoming a family pet rather than dinner.

In this small British town the pet owners are just as lively as their animals and seem to present Paul with the majority of his problems. Added to that he develops a crush on one of his bosses who reminds him of Maria Von Trapp from the Sound of Music in spite of the fact that she’s significantly older than he is.

While coping with Lucy’s many mood swings and his strange feelings with for his boss he also has to do his job which at first consists of the mundane spayings and neuterings yet somewhere along the way, thanks to the office receptionist with one glass eye, people begin to believe that he is an expert in exotic animals. He finds himself treating an anaconda, bizarre insects, and even a tarantula.

Along the way he begins to look at both difficult people and their animals differently and to be taken as a serious vet in his own right instead of just a junior partner. He learns how to reach out to Lucy as he finds her drifting away from him as well as dealing with his crush on his boss and in the process manages to get respect from the office’s toughest clients.

In short it was a very funny and touching story all at the same time that I ended up liking a lot. If you also like these types of stories or you like animals, I think you’ll like it too. You might even find the small town dynamic both interesting and surprising too. I recommend it highly.

Contains: a few swear words, some sexual terminology


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