The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – Review

Published by Borough Press

Publication date – 28 January 2016

Source – review copy


“England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…”

Mrs Creasy has disappeared. Mr Creasy can be seen wandering the streets looking for her. Grace and her friend Tilly decide to look for Mrs Creasy. Whilst they are at it they are on the hunt for Jesus, who, the vicar has told them, is everywhere. But as they investigate it becomes apparent that the street has secrets that are about to be revealed, though they are keen for Mrs Creasy to return home, some of the other residents are not as eager.

From the first page I was captivated by this novel. It draws you in and I was soon transported to the heat wave of 1976. There is a slightly magical, whimsical edge to the story, as if it is softened by the heat of the time. The innocence of Grace and Tilly also lends itself to this. The reader gets to view the street and its inhabitants through both adult eyes and those of the 10 year old detectives. This adds layers to them, they become more rounded and whole but also more mysterious at the same time. The straightforward thinking and view of the world from Grace and Tilly lays bare the avarice and indeed cruelty adult actions can cause.

The vicar in one of his sermons talks about people being goats and sheep. Those who follow Jesus, believe in him and abide by the tenants of Christianity are the sheep, whilst those who sin are the goats. As the girls detect, they discover that in the real world those who appear to be sheep, who conform and are ‘normal’, and those who are goats, who are on the outside of societal norms, are not always as appears.

I really don’t want to go into the details of the story too much as it would take away from the delight of finding out for yourself. What you will get if you read this story is a tale filled with memorable characters, and one that evokes another era, even for those who weren’t around then.

As for the characters each one is so well drawn you can imagine them in their houses on the cul-de-sac, hiding behind twitching net curtains. The weather becomes a character, lending itself to effecting the mood of the neighbours, switching dramatically when the story requires. As for the street this too is a continually presence. It could be anywhere, this cul-de-sac of collusion. We never really find out its location, and that is the point. It could be anywhere, these could be your neighbours, your sheep and goats.

With this book Joanna Cannon has created two of the most delightful, endearing and entertaining protagonists and written a tale that wraps itself around you. It remains there even after you have turned the last page. At the time of writing this review the book hasn’t even been published yet but I am impatiently waiting for more from Joanna Cannon.

This is a book that has subtle nuances and passages that give life to barely formed ideas and fancies as to what is happening to the characters. It begs to be re-read, to see what else can be gleaned from the pages that may have been overlooked the first time. Without a doubt this is one of my top books of 2016

This is a tale of how secrets, lies and little actions can have lasting consequences. it is a coming of age tale, off how the innocence of childhood is fleeting and should be cherished. It is a tale of how we are all goats, each with our own issues, quirks and characteristics that make us who we are. Its just that sometimes some of us are goats in sheep’s clothing…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. An excellent review – I’m now regretting not accepting a copy of this book – sounds fantastic!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks. It is a great book. If you get the chance again and do read it let me know what you think. 🙂


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