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Non 1001 Book Review: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep Joanna Cannon


Yesterday we posted our predictions for the 2016 Man Booker Longlist nominees. This book made it on to my list. If it does get selected, our panel of judges will read it and post mini reviews along with our special rating system (more on that in the future). Here is my full review. 

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★
Find it here: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

This ARC was provided by Scribner (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Netgalley: Part coming-of-age novel, part mystery, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a quirky and utterly charming debut about a community in need of absolution 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. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God—they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.

Spunky, spirited Grace and frail, nervous Tilly go door to door in search of clues. As the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives uncover much more than they could have imagined. Instead of finding their missing neighbor, they must try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, and a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in. It’s only in the suffocating heat of the summer, that the ability to guard these differences becomes impossible. Along with the parched lawns and the melting pavement, the lives of all the neighbors begin to deconstruct. What the girls don’t realize is that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was beginning to peel back just before she disappeared.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: The publicists got it right this time when they described this book. It is definitely quirky and charming. It also beautifully captures the small town England of the 1970s.

Set largely in one street, “The Avenue,” the story deals with the disappearance of Mrs Creasy. Two best friends on school summer holiday set out to find her and bring her home safely by searching the neighbourhood for God. To find God they believe they must speak to all the neighbors on the street. While they learn more about the beliefs of their neighbors, they also begin to learn more about secret events that took place 10 years ago and changed the neighborhood. The two friends are challenged to be the “wise men” and learn not to believe everything they are told.

The narrative moves backwards and forwards in time and regularly switches narrators. The chapters are all titled after the places the girls will visit in that chapter like Number 3, the Avenue or St Anthony’s. The narrative is held together by the central narrative of 10 year-old Grace and her understanding of events. This style really works because while the central narrative is in the present day, the people the girls speak to have their memories jogged of past events. These memories lead to new evidence that will eventually reveal whodunit and what was done.

The use of a child narrator adds a direct, forthright, and straightforward dimension to the narrative. The way Grace thinks is hilarious and frequently made me smile. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to other readers.

Favourite quotes:

“Remington padded into the kitchen. He used to be a Labrador, but he’s become so fat, it was difficult to tell”

“The hall filled with people. It was far more crowded than the church had been, and pairs of jeans mixed with Sunday best. It appeared that Jesus pulled a much bigger crowd if He provided garibaldis.”

“I thought about my parents. They fibbed about the amount of time it would take to get somewhere and exactly how long my tea would be, and although my mother always said my presents were from both of them, my father always looked as surprised as I did when I opened each one on Christmas morning.”

I love this description of the library “It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit.”

“I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and life of their own. I had yet to realize that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you have let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owners of you.”

A moment when the new family and first Asians in the street visit “Aneesha Kapoor looked over at me and smiled. Then she gave a little wink that only she and I could see. I think she probably know that a very large part of me wanted to die.”

So who would like this book? I would recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries like Agatha Raisin and Midsummer Murders.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. 

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Is this the kind of book you think stands a shot of the Man Booker Longlist?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    You convinced me- I’ve had this on my wish list for a while. Now I’m getting a copy. It sounds like a fun, light read.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 19, 2016
  2. I don’t see this as a contender but it does appeal to me so am on the waiting list at the library

    Liked by 1 person

    July 20, 2016
    • I agree in it not being a contender (based on her description) but it also sounds interesting. The Man Booker panel rarely chooses lighter books for their list so I don’t see it making it on there but we shall see.


      July 21, 2016
  3. Book Worm #

    Hope you both enjoy it 🙂


    July 20, 2016
  4. That sounds great. Your description made me think of Michael Frayn’s Spies.


    July 20, 2016

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