The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon
Publication date: 26th December 2016
Publisher: The Borough Press
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…
I’d been keen to read this book for some time as I’d heard good things and was intrigued by the title.
Set in England in both the 60s and 70s, this book felt very British. The story centres around a community of houses where everyone knows everyone over two time periods; the present is 1976 and we see flashbacks of events 9 years previously. One of the residents has gone missing but no one, including her husband John, knows why or where to. As the two main characters try to find Mrs Creasy, the Avenue’s dark and long hidden secrets slowly begin to unravel.
“‘We don’t always see things, though, do we?’ he said. ‘We walk past the same scenes every day without ever looking at them properly.'”
Grace and Tilly are the 10 year old girls setting out to find their neighbour. Grace is perceptive and confident, Tilly is delicate, shy and quiet. They are sweet, likeable and innocent, yet wise and honest in ways adults are not. Visiting each neighbour, I enjoyed reading from a child’s perspective and peeling back the layers at the same time as the girls.
“They stood on the opposite corner, doing nothing except being older than me. (…) They were a bookmark, a page I had yet to read, and I wanted to stretch myself out to get there.”
I felt connected to this book, its plot and its characters. Each neighbour had a personality which I could easily picture as being real. Author Joanna Cannon does a great job of portraying these people who stand by their faith and decency while hiding secrets so large that attending confession just wouldn’t be enough. I particularly enjoyed the addition of an Indian family to the street. As they refused to accept this family could possibly be from Birmingham and not somewhere more exotic, the residents comments of multiculturalism and race seemed so realistic of the times and Cannon showed this perfectly.
With a similar tone to Fredrik Bachman, Cannon has pieced together an enjoyable story. The symbolic ending did leave me with a few questions, but after a little bit of research, I think that was supposed to be the point.
Overall rating: An amusing and enjoyable story of hidden secrets and community life set in Britain the 70s. I sped through this story of two 10 year olds solving a neighbour’s disappearance. I’ll be giving “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep” 4 stars.