THE SUNDAY REVIEW | THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP – JOANNA CANNON

 

Set against the backdrop of Britain’s 1976 heatwave, this is the story of two young girls who, during a slow-paced summer, decide to look into the sudden disappearance of their neighbour, Mrs. Creasy. But this isn’t just the story of what happened to Mrs. Creasy. In following the amateur detectives, we learn about the dynamics of their friendship and the lives of everyone they interact with. We see their relationship evolve and face outside challenges, we see the complex dynamics of a tight-knit community faced with events that bring about doubt and fear. Though the story is not a complicated one, it nevertheless serves as a representation of human interaction on a much larger scale.

Because it’s written from the perspective of children, the writing style is easy to get into, yet full of perfectly worded passages that need to be underlined or copied down for later re-reading. To say Cannon has a way with words is a massive understatement. She is also incredibly talented at both drawing relationships between people and at creating a setting you can feel taking shape around you as you read.

I loved this book. I made the significant mistake of putting it down halfway through because I didn’t have it as an ebook and I needed something to read on my phone during the many hours I spent in my baby’s darkened room while trying to get her to sleep. It was during this period that I started reading Rebecca, and I became so engrossed in that story that I zipped through it, leaving this book sadly neglected. If I’m being honest, this is why it received less than full marks from me – I plan to re-read it in the future and see if my rating can be bumped up to 10/10, which is what I suspect the book rightly deserves.

Even with a gap in the middle, I enjoyed reading this book immensely. It had all the elements I need for a great book – writing, setting, plot and character development. I’d say the weakest element for me was plot as it did feel like it moved more slowly in the middle. But again, this impression may be entirely due to my setting the book aside and interrupting my own reading of it. Or the slow down may have contributed to my not picking it up again immediately. It’s hard to say. But though the plot didn’t stand up as well as the other elements of the book, that;s only because the rest were near perfect. So it’s not really saying much.

One of the most beautiful experiences of reading is, in my opinion, when you encounter a book that takes you simultaneously out of and into yourself. By this I mean that you are able to lose yourself in the setting and story as you read, but that it manages to connect to parts of your own life experience and bring up strong emotions. For me, it connected to the emotional experience of being a child on the brink of beginning to understand that the adult world is a completely different one. The knowledge that certain pivotal experiences in life give you that you can never come back from. It also connected with my more recent experience of becoming a mother, and the particular stresses and worries that accompany the role.

I don’t think this book has received as much attention in Canada as it has in the UK, but it should. I’d particularly recommend it either in the height of summer when you are in a similar setting to the book, or in the depths of winter when you would do anything for just one sweltering hour of summer. But honestly, just go and read it now, because whenever you pick it up you will be glad you did. And once you start reading, keep going! Brilliant, funny, evocative and heartbreaking. A book that truly has something for every reader.


“An astute, engaging debut” (Publishers Weekly), The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a quirky and utterly charming tale of a community in need of reconciliation and two girls learning what it means to belong.

England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced, and decide to take matters into their own hands.

Spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues. The cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover more than they ever imagined. A complicated history of deception begins to emerge—everyone on the Avenue has something to hide.

During that sweltering summer, the lives of all the neighbors begin to unravel. The girls come to realize that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was starting to peel back just before she disappeared…

“A thoughtful tale of loyalty and friendship, family dynamics and human nature” (Kirkus Reviews), this glorious debut is part coming-of-age story, part mystery. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep radiates an unmistakable warmth and intelligence and is “rife with tiny extraordinaries” (The New York Times Book Review). “Joanna Cannon is an author to watch” (Booklist, starred review).Goodreads


Book Title: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Author: Joanna Cannon
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Scribner
Released: June 20, 2017 (originally released October 22, 2015)
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Childhood, UK
Pages: 368
Date Read: September 10-27, 2017
Rating: 8/10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *