REVIEW: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Now this was an interesting book. I think I was initially drawn to the title – it’s a little unusual and the book turned out to be just as unusual.

Published in 2016 and running to a substantial 450 pages, this was the debut novel of Joanna Cannon, an author I’d never read before, and became a Sunday Times Bestseller.

Jumping between the long hot summer of 1976 and 1967, this book centres on suburbia, in particular the residents of a cul-de-sac called The Avenue.

While giving the narrator’s voice to many of the residents of the eight homes in The Avenue, our main protagonist is Grace, a ten-year-old girl.

When Mrs Creasy from Number 8 goes missing one Monday morning and no-one seems able to find her, Grace and her friend Tilly, also 10, take it upon themselves to discover what has happened to her. During a church sermon they hear that God is everywhere so they decide to try and find him in The Avenue, thinking if they can find God, they can find Mrs Creasy.

But despite visiting all their neighbours homes and chatting to them – even Walter Bishop at Number 11 who everyone says is a ‘bad man’ that they shouldn’t talk to, God remains elusive.

Until, that is, Tilly finds him on a drainpipe near the garages, at which point the whole street turns out to guard their image of God.

In the meantime, the adults in the street are all getting restless. It appears Mrs Creasy was much-liked and very easy to talk to. So easy, in fact, that people may have let slip some nasty little secrets they want kept hidden.

And why does everyone shun Walter Bishop and want nothing more than for him to move from The Avenue.

This book is funny, charming and incredibly quirky. I loved the prose, the change in timeline and the change in narrators but most of all the character development stood out. This is twitchy curtain suburbia at its best.

This is almost a coming of age book and almost a whodunnit mystery but most of all it’s about people and what rumours and lies can do to them.

I thought it was great.

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