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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep: A Novel

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep: A Novel

Scritto da Joanna Cannon

Narrato da Paula Wilcox


The Trouble with Goats and Sheep: A Novel

Scritto da Joanna Cannon

Narrato da Paula Wilcox

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (32 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
11 ore
Pubblicato:
Jul 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781508214793
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Descrizione

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.

For fans of Jeannette Walls's The Silver Star, this "is a gripping debut about the secrets behind every door" (Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry).
Pubblicato:
Jul 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781508214793
Formato:
Audiolibro

Disponibile anche come...

Disponibile anche come libroLibro


Informazioni sull'autore

Joanna Cannon graduated from Leicester Medical School and worked as a hospital doctor, before specialising in psychiatry. Her most recent novel Three Things About Elsie was published in 2018 and was a top ten hardback bestseller and her first novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a top ten bestseller in both hardback and paperback and was a Richard and Judy pick She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.


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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (5/5)
    The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna CannonDuring a particularly span of hot, arid weather, two 10 year old best friends decide they will investigate the disappearance of one of their older neighbors. Grace and Tilly just know there has to be more than “people do strange things in the heat” to Mrs Creasy’s sudden departure.Using a cover of being Brownies, out to “lend a hand” or to get a specific badge, they go door to door seeking answers and God, who Grace was told is everywhere to keep you safe. If they find God, then they will find Mrs Creasy.The story line skips time frames, which I have always found annoying, giving clues and backstory. It gets a bit confusing.The small estate, where 6 families live, numbered in a cluster, is a long clique with its own cache of secrets. Some shared, conspiracally, while others in confidence. None with Walter Bishop, the oddball outsider no one cared to know, but all blamed for any and all misfortune or mystery. It is he they target. It is he they punish.I truly appreciate her writing, the turn of a phrase and invoking metaphor. Quite poetic. And the best “scene” was the two girls in the garden, “earning a badge” with neighbor, Eric Lamb. From this point on, I absolutely love the book. I’m in its rhythm, digging its style, feeling the characters.Grace and Tilly continue their search for God and Mrs Creasy, finding so much more on their quest. The adults are all a bunch of racist, unforgiving islands that can’t accept anything outside their realm. (Except Mr Lamb)It’s as much a book on acceptance as it is a mystery. How they blatantly call out their own rawest faults in 3rd person denial while quoting bible verses. Sounds like current affairs, but let’s not go there.Let’s say it’s a story of friendship, written in enviable prose, that may make you look into your own soul and question your last action and plan a better future.
  • (4/5)
    So frightfully English.
  • (4/5)
    1976 in a small neighbourhood in England. Mrs. Creasy has gone missing. She left and told no one. Not even her husband. It is the hottest summer in England's history. Perhaps that is what made Mrs. Creasy leave.Ten year olds, Grace and Tilly, decide that maybe they can find where Mrs. Creasy goes. They will visit each house under the premise of looking for God. The vicar has told them 'He is everywhere.' Grace is a bit bolder and Tilly quieter but one who maybe sees a bit more?As the two girls go from house to house, during their summer break, they don't necessarily find clues of where Mrs. Creasy has gone, but they stir up the secrets that the families are hiding. Some are known to one another and some are still private.There are the Forbes, Harold who is domineering and blustering, Dorothy who appears to be a bit unfocused and used lists to be sure she gets all her tasks done each day: Eric Lamb, a widower who spends most of his time working in his garden: Sheila Dakin, the single mother of two children who spends a good portion of her time sunbathing: Brian Roper, age 42 and still living at home with his Mam, May Roper: Sylvia and Derek Bennett, Grace's parents: Mrs. Morton, a widow who has babysat Grace since she was a baby: and John Creasy, who seems to have come unraveled since his wife's disappearance, but firmly believes that she is still alive and will soon be home. A cast of characters all with secrets.This is a book not to be rushed through, but to be savoured. There is mystery, humour, sadness and instances that make you do some thinking. I think it could be read more than once and you could find out more and more.
  • (4/5)
    3.5***In the summer of 1976, in a particular neighbor in England, two young girls, Grace and Tilly, try to come to terms with the disappearance of one of their neighbors, Mrs Creasy. It seems everyone’s suspicions lie with the odd man who lives at Number Eleven, but none of the adults will say WHY, other than vague references to a missing baby some nine years previously. What an interesting and inventive way to structure this mystery / coming of age novel. Cannon tells the story in dual timeframes (Summer 1976 and December 1967), and with multiple points of view. Grace and Tilly are naïve but ever curious. Adults frequently talk around children as if the children can’t hear, and that is the way that the girls get much of their information (and misinformation). Of course, some of what they learn makes no sense to them, given their limited life experience, while this reader could put together clues far ahead of them. But in addition to the mystery Cannon gives the reader a coming-of-age story. Tilly is the quieter, shyer girl, somewhat in awe of Grace, who is, herself, trying to emulate the local teenager. Grace can be bossy and unfeeling. Tilly, somewhat sickly and sheltered by her single mother, is at a distinct disadvantage. Their relationship has its ups and downs through the book, with one particularly painful episode when Grace fails to give Tilly her due. But in the end the girls learn valuable lessons about friendship, responsibility and not being quick to judge. This is Cannon’s debut novel. I would definitely read another book by her.
  • (4/5)
    This is a charming story of a Council Estate in the 1970s. A woman goes missing, which catalyzes two young girls, misguided by taking their priest too literally, to search the estate for God, hoping that finding God will bring the missing woman back. Meanwhile, the adults in the estate worry that her disappearance might be related to some morally/legally questionable actions that happened a long time ago. The book slowly reveals the characters' histories.This book reads like a mystery, and as a reader, you need to pay attention to small clues and how they fit together, but it isn't a traditional mystery where a detective reveals the perpetrator of a crime, and the ending isn't as tidy as a normal mystery.Cannon's writing is excellent. The characters are vivid and believable, especially the children as we see the world through their eyes and understand things that the narrators don't. There is an extended metaphor with the unusually hot summer weather, and Cannon manages to find new ways to describe the heat in every chapter. Unfortunately, I listened to the audiobook, and this book does not work well as an audiobook. It skips between narrators, and jumps back and forth in time, and it's really confusing if you don't pay attention to the dates. I wish I had read this on paper, so that I could flip back and forth to compare dates to understand the chronology.
  • (4/5)
    This was such a fun book to read for 90% of its length. A neighborhood in England during a hot summer in 1976 is thrown into a tizzy when a woman disappears from the street. Two young girls set out to determine where and why she went. Their investigations and declarations make for such an enjoyable story that I can almost overlook the strangeness that happens at the very end.
  • (2/5)
    Mrs. Creasey has disappeared and the neighborhood are quick with the causes for her odd behavior. Some blame it on the recent heat wave while others are considering the cause to lie with the occupant of #11, a suspected pedophile. The novel's ten-year old protagonist, Grace, and her best friend, Tilly are not sure. However, after hearing a homily by the vicar, the two believe that if they can find Jesus, the Good Shepherd, they will find Mrs. Creasey. The novel is set in the summer of 1976 and narrated by Grace and interspersed by other neighbors' dilemmas ten years early. Although I had no difficulty with Grace and Tilly's adventures, I became lost when reading about the various neighbors and their petty issues, so much so that at times I thought about putting the book down.
  • (5/5)
    It's been a long while since I read a book all in one day without feeling the need to check every so often to see how many pages I had left. I really enjoyed this book.
    In this story two girls take to heart something their vicar tells them and decide they need to find God, to fix the bad things around them, in particular the suspicious disappearance of a neighbor woman. They encounter lots of helpful, patronizing grown-ups during their search for God, or at least for the truth about the woman who disappeared, but they learn that they cannot really trust the adults in their lives to tell them the truth. The book explores the ways people twist the truth when it doesn't suit them, and why they feel they need to. It also looks at how people seek out beliefs that let them fit in, rather than looking for what is real, or what is true.
    This is a lovely, complex novel, and I'd not be surprised if it is a popular, established classic in a few decades.
  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed this. Very clever at shining a light on friendship, honesty, wisdom and the perils of the herd mentality. And I really liked being taken back to life in the 70's!
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant debut novel
  • (4/5)
    [The Trouble With Goats and Sheep] by [Joanna Cannon] is a delight! Ten year old Grace and Tilly are on a mission. They decide to spend the summer break from school going door to door in the neighborhood looking for two things...God and Mrs. Creasy. They heard at church that God is everywhere but since they've never seen Him they decide to ask at each house in the neighborhood if He is there. If they can find Him, they may very well find Mrs. Creasy too. Mrs. Creasy just suddenly disappeared one day and the adults sure don't seem very good at finding her. They've been told by those same adults that Mrs. Creasy's disappearance is likely due to the heat wave but they don'y buy that either. A summer of searching proves they were right. A morality tale and a mystery with a unique writing style make this debut novel a winner.
  • (4/5)
    It's theong hot summer of 1976.Mrs Creasy has gone missing.Every resident of The Avenue has their theory - and as events of nine years earlier unfold, apparently their own reasons to worry about what she knew. Secrets come out and 'known knowns' are challenged.Grace and Tilly decide they want to find out more, and after hearing the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats at a funeral, set out to find God too. A long hot summer of discovery. An enjoyable story, though I found the characters confusing to remember who was who (probably me!) at times. And once again the story wasn't tied up at the end. I like to know what happened.
  • (5/5)
    It's all a matter of belonging.I really loved the voice of the author in this book, she had a wonderfully quirky view on life and I highlighted a number of phrases and observations that appealed to me.The book also rang a memory bell, set in a Britain that I clearly remember from my childhood, during the endless hot summer of 1976.The characters are all residents of The Avenue, part of an estate somewhere in England. Many have known each other from childhood and grown up together, a few are 'incomers'. They encompass a number of quirks that would be labelled in modern day societies, but at that time, Dyslexia, Asperger's and similar personality or learning disorders, were just accepted as different. The significant question was - how much different, and could you still fit in?Whilst there as a bit of a who-done-it, running through the narrative, the main theme was the disappearance of Margaret Creasey, who has vanished as the story begins. The residents thought they knew why she'd left and were worried that it might bring up long-buried secrets.Ten-year-old Grace and her friend Tilly, decide they are going to spend their summer vacation searching The Avenue for God as he would surely know where Mrs Creasey was.It really took me back, how conversation took place over a cup of tea and a packet of Custard Creams....and Angel Delight! I remember my mother discovering Angel Delight, it replaced Bird's Custard as 'afters' for quite a while!And I have to include just a few of the lovely quotes that I'd highlighted:"She has to call several times because his dreams are like cement." (Loc 618)"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." (Loc 2887)"My mother looked at him and did loud staring" (Loc 3316)."My mother cornered her eyes" (Loc 3330)So, why didn't I give this book the full five stars? Well, I actually had a problem equating some of the things Grace and Tilly say with their age of ten, they seemed older than their years a lot of the time. Plus there is a slight lack of resolution at the end - why did Walter suddenly enter the conversation uninvited and what happened about the secrets that everyone was so scared of revealing?Still, it's a brilliant read, especially if you were old enough to remember that summer.
  • (5/5)
    The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon was brought to my attention by watching this video by one of my favorite BookTubers, Mercedes. It was the cover that initially grabbed my attention (Honestly, are you even surprised anymore?) but it was the quick blurb which she read that truly won me over. (PS The UK and US covers are vastly different and honestly I prefer the cover from the UK.) Cannon's debut novel is set on a small road in England during the summer of 1976 and the winter of 1967. Two seemingly disparate events from these two time periods seem to be converging during what turns out to be one of the hottest summers on record. The reader follows several narrative threads from the inhabitants of this road but the central character is 10-year old Grace. We see her neighbors, family, and friend (Tilly is a delight) through her eyes while also getting to peek behind the shuttered windows and closed doors of their homes where secrets lurk in every corner. It started with a disappearance of a woman...or was it a baby? Maybe it was a fire that started things. It's sometimes difficult to determine just what started a chain of events, isn't it? The Trouble with Goats and Sheep explores that and much more. I don't want this novel to sound distressingly gloomy or dark because that's not accurate. It's difficult for me to convey just what it was that instantly drew me in and had me savoring it like a delicious treat. I think it's that Cannon was able to move seamlessly between the different characters and two time periods and create a story that was both believable and poignant. The people on the avenue felt real and tangible. Their foibles and fears weren't inconceivable or written with a melodramatic air. These were real people who had made mistakes but were too stubborn to admit them. It's a study of humanity and how two little girls tried to reconcile what they were seeing with what they desperately wanted to believe. I knew within 30 pages that this was a book that this was going to have high re-readability for me and I daresay for many others as well. 10/10 highly recommend.
  • (3/5)
    Ms. Carson's debut novel is thoughtfully written with what appears to be a singular purpose. Her principal narrator, Grace is imbued with the opinions and tenacity of a precocious ten year old child who has been left on her own to figure out adult issues. Grace and her friend Tilly take the reader on an adventure to "Find God" and the missing Mrs. Creasy. Along the way we meet the neighbors who live on The Avenue. The most profound aspect of Ms. Carson's book is her ability to clearly depict each character and allow the reader to form their opinions and reactions. The ending was just a bit too perfect in leaving everything you wanted to know unsaid, but perhaps that is the perfection of it all.
    Thank you NetGalley for an advance copy.
  • (5/5)
    I absolutely loved this book. It is the story of two ten year old girls who, when a woman goes missing in their street, decide that they will find out why she is missing and where she is. They go to church on a Sunday and hear the Vicar say that 'God is Everywhere' and that he will sort the goats from the sheep - hence the title. They decide that as God is everywhere he will know where the missing woman is, and so if they know who on their street are goats and who are sheep they will find out what has happened to her - rumours are rife. One resident in the street is deeply loathed by all the adults who suspect/accuse him of being a paedophile - though that word is not used. All the action takes place during the long hot summer of 1976 - and it was very hot and seemed very long even to me. A beautifully written book about secrets, childhood friendship, predjudice and fallibility. I recommend it most highly.
  • (4/5)
    England in 1976 experienced a very hot summer. For ten year olds, Grace and Tilly, the endless days of heat needed a distraction. That distraction was provided when Mrs. Creasy disappeared from their neighborhood cul-de-sac.The girls decide to visit their neighbors to ask questions about Mrs Creasy and to also look for God. The Vicar's Sunday sermon had been the impetus for the search and for a way to distinguish the goats among us from the sheep.It soon seemed that all of the neighborhood had a secret that went back to an event 10 years ago, an event that many are very uncomfortable about to this day.In the course of this wonderful first novel, we get to know each of the neighbors as well as Grace and Tilly. The characterization is superb. Humorous, poignant, with a message for all. I can not wait for Joanna Cannon to write another book.Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.
  • (5/5)
    I'm profoundly impressed by this author's debut. It's well written, funny and yet so captivating that it's difficult to stop reading. The language is beautiful. I'm looking forward to Jonna Cannon's next book. The only flaw is that I find the ending a little confusing.
  • (5/5)
    Grace and Tilly are two indescribable girls who have a missing neighbor, Mrs Creasy, They are convinced that something sinister may be going on related to her disappearance, and begin sleuthing. After gaining no ground with their hunt, they decide to pull out their big gun, and search for God Himself, who surely will succeed in finding Mrs. Creasy. Just a great read.
  • (5/5)
    A brilliant bit of nostalgic reading which took me back to my younger days. A well written and crafted story with some brilliant and sad characters. Humorous with a serious thread running through. Loved it! Anyone for Angel Delight or Dandelion & Burdock? :-)Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    We follow two little 10 year old girls, Grace & Tilly house to house on their street located in an upland area in England, as they investigate the mystery of a missing neighbour's wife. At their local church, they were told that God is everywhere, so they set out to find Him on their street in hopes that wherever they find God, they will also find answers to the whereabouts of the missing woman.

    The author has cleverly titled each chapter with the address of the house where the action is to take place. The story is a bit easier to follow in the beginning if you remember who lives where. The book also contains many references to old British tv shows, songs, treats, popular at the time, that might puzzle some readers unfamiliar with the era (late 60s-70s Britain). But no worries, lack of knowledge about these things will not spoil the story for you. Having lived through that time, it brought back many happy memories of my own childhood.

    Through Grace & Tilly's travels , the reader learns the secrets of each house on "the avenue", where everyone hides their secrets and shame, where keeping up appearances is paramount. A neighbourhood where people with differences are ostracized and outsiders are treated with suspicion.

    Joanna Cannon has a lot to say about judging others. This is part mystery & part morality tale. So beautifully written, I delighted in every word. Such a wonderful story, an excellent read.
  • (5/5)
    I'm really surprised by some of the bad reviews for this book. I loved it! In the long, hot summer of 1976, two 10 year old girls, Grace and Tilly decide to try and (a) find out what has happened to Margaret Creasy, a woman from their street who has gone missing; and (b) God, who the vicar has said is everywhere. The cast of characters covers the whole street and a few others from the estate and each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different household or character.I was only 1 in 1976 but I know about the exceptionally hot summer that year and I thought the oppressive heat was portrayed really well. Grace and Tilly are lovely characters, and I liked the small community feel of their estate of streets named after trees. I loved the bit where an Indian family moved in - you can imagine how a suburban community in the mid-seventies reacted to that.There was a real sense of nostalgia about this book. Mentions of the Kays catalogue, a pile of 2 pence pieces to make phone calls at the phone box and much more. I read this on my Kindle and there were no page numbers. I was very surprised to find out the print copy has 400 pages as it felt like a lot less - I raced through it. There were one or two twists in the tale that I didn't see coming. This book made me smile and was a joy to read.
  • (3/5)
    Blurb blindness strikes again - well, almost. The plot is promising - during the long hot summer of 1976, two young girls investigate the disappearance of a neighbour and the secret lives of the rest of the street - but the writing lacks polish. The whole narrative is just so disjointed and clumsy that I never really got into the story, and the characters are all cliched Little Englanders: the controlling husband, the lonely widower, the caring grandmother, the middle-aged man living with his mother, the skanky single mother. Are we supposed to care about any of these people? The most sympathetic figure was the 'weirdo' that the rest of the grotty little neighbourhood turned against - I'm glad that the author got across the point that the parents were to blame, not the victim of their abuse and accusations.The chapters narrated by Gracie, the ten year old protagonist, didn't flow very well either - the dialogue was highly improbable (too many philosophical soundbites coming out of the mouth of that babe), and I thought the whole religious angle was awkward. Why would they be looking for God in every house on the street, why not just be searching for Mrs Creasy? Bizarrely, the last couple of chapters finally captured my attention, drawing all the different threads and timelines together, but the damage had been done for me by that point. Borrow, don't buy (and especially not at full price!)
  • (5/5)
    4+ When Mrs. Creasey disappears, 10 year old Grace and her slightly younger friend Tilly decide to investigate. After learning from the vicar that God is everywhere they decide that while they are looking that they will also look for God.A heat wave, a cul-de-sac, a man who doesn't fit in, God in a drainpipe and secrets many, many secrets and two very entertaining young protagonists. The girls find out many things, not necessarily things that will solve the case, because in truth they do not have the ability to understand everything they hear nor able to put it in the proper context. They also do not have all the pieces, but individual people do. The dangers of judgment and banding together to deliver their own justice. Throughout the novel we hear a great deal about shame, because though everyone talks about everyone else here, their are those who are keeping something back, things they don't want known because it will shame them.This is a marvelous novel, written in a lighter toe but dealing with some very important and weighty subjects. The part when the girls are in church and the vicar is talking about sheep and goats was laugh out loud funny. I read some of that to my husband. Ultimately this is a novel about friendship and a heat laden summer when two young girls learn a far more valuable lesson than they ever expected. ARC from Netgalley.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this audiobook! I loved the imagery, the twists, and the way it makes one think about how they treat others. The author showed the beauty of friendship and the despair of loss. She made me stop and take pause of my own life. Isn’t that what a good book should do? Well, done!
  • (3/5)
    Reading this book reminds me why I'm not a big fan of mystery. The reader is drip-fed clues about the reason for a mysterious event and this is meant to keep us reading. I'd rather read because the characters are developing greater depth as we go on and I want to know them more. This book is particularly unsatisfying in that the reader isn't allowed to know what all the characters of the story know - it's not mysterious, it's just plot elements foreshadowed but withheld. I didn't find the writing at all subtle, and indeed many of the characters or more caricatures than real people. In case we don't get it, they're even given names to demonstrate what type of person they are (e.g. Mr Lamb). The children didn't appeal to me either as on one level they were too naive to be believable (in their search for God) and on another level they make adult-level comments and observations. The best aspect for me was probably the portrayal of people with varying degrees of mental disturbance, none of which seems to be frankly ill, but most of which have trouble fitting into their social world. I think I chose this book because LibraryThing reckoned is was similar to Carys Bray's work. Superficially that's true, but to my mind Bray's work is in a different class altogether.
  • (5/5)
    A book of exquisite prose; I love descriptions such as Grace's father walking across a car park 'with his thoughts pushed deep into his pockets', and this book is littered with such wonderful verbal illustrations of the characters' moods.

    I think this is one of the most captivating books I have read in a long time. Perhaps that is aided by the fact that I was a young child in 1976, and remember Angel Delight very well - I'm almost craving it, along with the frequently-mentioned custard creams!

    Sadly, I feel some reviewers have completely missed the point of the book - how we like to cast people as goats or sheep, forming judgements without really exploring the truth. My impressions on reaching the end of the book are that those who appear to be sheep may be goats in hiding, while those who are cast as goats can often really be sheep.

  • (3/5)
    It is June, 1976 in a small English town sweating through a record-setting heat wave. To the chagrin of everyone on The Avenue, Mrs. Creasy has gone missing. Where did she go? And why? Did she just up and leave? Has she been murdered? Is she coming back? These are the questions on everyone’s lips, and there is nobody more determined to solve the mystery than 10-year-old Grace and her friend and sidekick Tilly, who set out to uncover what happened to Mrs. Creasy, and in the process perhaps find God as well. Joanna Cannon’s poignant and cleverly amusing narrative follows Grace and Tilly as they pose as Brownies trying to augment their merit badge counts by helping out around the neighbourhood, and by means of this ruse gain access to houses up and down The Avenue in their search for clues. Not altogether surprisingly, what they mostly uncover are tawdry secrets and bad behaviour. Nine years earlier, in 1967, another disappearance shocked the neighbourhood, and a craving for quick justice led residents of The Avenue to take the matter into their own hands. Years later, enter Mrs. Creasy: a woman innocent of that piece of local history, but a familiar, helpful and nonjudgmental presence in every house on the street, someone in whom people suffering crushing guilt might find it easy to confide. As the novel progresses, the question that residents of long standing begin asking is How much does she know? Some are eager for her to return, others hope she’s gone for good. Joanna Cannon uses her psychiatric training to great advantage, populating an overheated English landscape with a group of ordinary people harbouring a terrible truth, some of whom are willing to go to great lengths to protect themselves from the shame of discovery. The result is a first novel that is psychologically astute and often very funny. Grace and Tilly are possibly the most guileless pair of amateur sleuths we are ever likely to encounter. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (the title is of Biblical origin) demonstrates the danger of acting on the assumptions we make about each other. It also asks some fascinating questions, such as: When tongues start wagging, is any secret really safe?
  • (5/5)
    In the summer of 1976, as the UK suffers its worst heat wave ever recorded, Mrs Creasy disappears. No one knows why she left or even if she left on her own volition or something more sinister has occurred – regardless, they are sure that Walter Bishop is somehow behind it because after all wasn’t he behind the disappearance of the baby in 1967 even if it was never proven. In his latest sermon the vicar preached that God was everywhere and someday he would separate the goats from the sheep and the sheep would go to heaven while the goats would go elsewhere. Which of course raised the question for 10-year-old Grace, the narrator of this tale, and her best friend, Tillie, how can you tell the difference because perhaps if they could, they would be able to solve the mystery of Mrs. Creasy. So while the adults discuss the disappearance and what to do about Bishop, Grace and Tillie set out to find God to ask him. If God is everywhere, surely someone on the avenue must know His exact whereabouts. As the summer and Grace and Tillie’s investigation heat up, old secrets are revealed, interesting and surprising discoveries are made, some bad things happen, a cat comes back, and Grace learns that perhaps there’s a little sheep and goat in everyone. By making Grace the narrator of this debut novel, author Joanna Cannon gives the reader a quirky, fun, and oddly innocent kid’s eye view of the world of adults. Cannon has a marvelous eye for the complexities and flaws we humans carry around with us and manages to make mundane events interesting, suspenseful, and often wickedly funny as the pair of juvenile would-be sleuths interrogate their eccentric but mostly quite nice neighbours including the alleged villain and certain harassment victim, Walter Bishop. This is a beautifully written, clever, and deceptively simple novel about friendship, loyalty, prejudice, and the secrets people keep and the lies they tell both to others and to themselves to protect those secrets and the consequences those lies can have. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep gets a very high recommendation from me.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which reminded me of Michael Frayn's Spies. Both books follow a pair of young friends as they play amateur sleuth, solving a mystery but simultaneously uncovering secrets the adults around them would have much preferred to remain hidden. In fact, the cover copy from my 2002 hardcover of Spies serves equally well as a summary of Cannon's novel:"In gripping prose, charged with emotional intensity, [The Trouble with Goats and Sheep] reaches into the moral confusion of youth to reveal a reality filled with deceptions and betrayals, where the ties of friendship, marriage, and family are threatened by cowardice[.] ... [Cannon] powerfully demonstrates ... that what appears to be happening in front of our eyes often turns out to be something we can't see at all."This is not to say that Cannon's book is derivative; her pre-adolescent girl protagonists, particularly Grace, the first-person narrator of the story, have their own voices and their own sets of foibles and blind spots. Cannon's decision to present events from the viewpoint of ten-year-old Grace (rather than as the recollection of an adult Grace) is a wise one; while at least one reviewer has noted that Grace is smarter, more observant, and more well-spoken than your average ten-year-old, her point of view keeps the reader in the moment, puzzling out clues at the same time as Grace and Tilly and being carried along by their youthful momentum.There are other pleasures to be found here as well. Cannon writes perfect descriptions of such varied phenomena as early widowhood ("forced her to weave a life from other people's remnants"), terraced houses ("handcuffed families together through chance and coincidence), and the saccharine taste of certain childless older women:"I stared at the room. It looked as though someone might have served it into the house with an ice cream scoop. Even the things that weren’t pink had a mention of it, as if they hadn’t been allowed through the door without making a firm commitment."Fans of both literary fiction and mysteries (not that those categories are mutually exclusive) will find The Trouble with Goats and Sheep appealing.I received a free copy of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.