The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Joanna Cannon)

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Part coming-of-age story, 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 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 much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in. In the suffocating heat of the summer, 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 unravel. 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.

“A summer of Space Hoppers and dancing queens, when Dolly Parton begged Jolene not to take her man, and we all stared at the surface of Mars and felt small.”

I’m sure you know that feeling… When you’re completely captivated by a book and you haven’t even finished it but you already know it’s going to be among your favorites. That’s what I felt with The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. And I’m fully aware that this is not going to be a novel for everyone (I’ve read mixed reviews and we all have different tastes, after all), but it was perfect for me and just what I needed this past weekend.

“He doesn’t look like a murderer,” said Tilly.
“What does a murderer look like?”
“They usually have mustaches,” she said “and are much fatter.”

Joanna Cannon is a master of storytelling and this is just the kind of story I wish I had crafted. I love the writing, the humour, the references, the characters… I’ve already said it before, but small-town tales full of peculiar characters are one of my favorite ingredients in a story and I had been looking for a book that made me feel like Tall Oaks did, for quite a while. I’m so glad I found it!

“The policeman was very tall even after he took his hat off”

This is not even a town, but an Avenue. Nosy neighbors judging each other and taking matters into their own hands. In The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, we travel back to 1976, during an extremely hot summer. Mrs Creasy is missing and Grace and Tilly (two lovely ten-year-olds) are determined to find her. Because God is everywhere and so they need to ask Him to bring Mrs Creasy back. But why is He so hard to find? And is that Him on a drainpipe (that part was hilarious). I think Grace might be one of my favorite narrators ever, but Tilly was just the loveliest girl I’ve ever encountered in a book. She was only ten years old but I wanted her as my friend.

“You were the one who found Him, though, Tilly; not Grace”
“But we’re friends” Tilly looked at me. “We go halves on everything. Even Jesus”.

And if you don’t usually like child narrators, keep in mind that there are plenty of chapters told from the point of view of every neighbor, as each one of them has a secret of their own… It even features flashbacks. I knew this was a special story because it made me laugh (I highly value that in a book!) and smile and it would also be a great novel for teenagers, as I believe its message is still relevant. It’s about judging others by their appearance, fitting in and what friendship really means.

So yes, I admit I have a soft spot for quirky coming of age stories, both in books and films; and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a wonderful one. If that weren’t enough, it’s also a mystery of sorts, although told in a lighter tone (even if it deals with some dark themes).

Why do I suddenly want Angel Delight?

Buy Here

Scribner, 2015

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Published by

Annie

In a past life I was probably a tortured police detective with a dark and traumatic past. Right now, however, I'm just a twenty-something bookworm who loves to listen to old songs and watch American movies from the nineties. I enjoy reading mystery and crime, southern coming of age stories and historical fiction set in the last century.

36 thoughts on “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Joanna Cannon)

  1. I read this a few months ago and loved it too. Grace was the perfect narrator. And funnily enough I’m halfway through Tall Oaks right now and… oh it’s just brilliant!!! Manny is a genius creation 😀

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    1. Grace was ❤ Ohhh Tall Oaks was my fave book last year, Manny is the best character ever, couldn't stop laughing! And the mystery had a great ending!

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  2. I love how you added quotes throughout, it gives a good sense of the writing style…I may incorporate that sometimes as well. Your review has convinced me I need to get back on the library list for this, I had it but then had to return it before I got to read it. I’m also glad to hear it’s not entirely narrated from a child’s perspective

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    1. I think I have done this only with a couple of three reviews, when I felt I had to highlight parts that I loved 😀 There are chapters in another POV but my favorites were Grace’s!

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  3. I loved reading this review, Annie. I’d heard about the book, but the title put me off finding out more (I’m not really a fan off sheep or goats!). I love novels for adults with child narrators though, as that’s what I write, and the story summary you’ve written has made the book really appeal to me. Can’t wait to get a copy. Thanks!

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    1. I was attracted to the title but first I had to know what it was about. The child narrator was my favorite part, it was fabulous! Thanks for the comment ❤

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  4. I have to say that I wouldn’t have guessed what this was about from the title but it sounds like something that I would enjoy. I like the fact that it’s a young narrator it tends to lend itself to lots of innocent humor, but I like that it’s interspersed with other POV as well, think this one might get added to my list 🙂

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    1. That’s why I like writing reviews about books with weird titles or covers, because otherwise you might have never checked them out haha It was a lovely book! You should read it!

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  5. Great review, Annie – I want to read this even more now! I’m going to have to shuffle my planned reading around to fit this in, I think…

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  6. I love the quotes. This does sound like a brilliant read. When you first told me about it, I just got stuck at the title lol. It sounds a bit off though the cover is certainly intriguing. You review has definitely convinced me to add this to my TBR. Fab review!

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  7. I don’t know why but I had put this one in the “maybe” category… until your review! You totally sold this story! I love the quotes you chose, they are awesome! The moustache, haha! Plus I’m always on the look for books that can make me laugh, we need them after reading about horrid crimes!! The narrators sound amazing, and I like that there are many people involved and flashbacks but that the author manages to make it all work! Fantastic review, doll ! xx

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  8. I finally made it to this review 🙂

    From the description, this book sounds like it takes a turn for the sinister, but after reading your review, it sounds like it is mostly light hearted but still dark…. and funny?!

    I’m in lol

    “I have a soft spot for quirky coming of age stories”

    Me too. I pretty much decided I wanted to add this to my TBR after hearing the title and how much you loved it. How can you NOT read a book called “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep.” I really need to know how the goats and sheep factor in….

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    1. It’s light and hilarious! It’s about some dark themes but the book is so fun and lovely… 🙂 I hope you enjoy it! And I can’t find the comment but Before the fall I wouldn’t say it’s a survival story… it’s more contemporary, about media and public opinion!

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