Review: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon


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I’ve always been told that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But, when you are faced with a book with a goat on the front, you’re hardly going to walk away are you?

I must say, however, I nearly didn’t buy this book. I was just about to leave the bookshop empty handed, after gushing over the leather bound classics, when I spotted this on a table by the door. Retail tactics to lure you in to impulsive buys, that is. Well played Waterstones, well played. As soon as I put it back down on the pile, determined not to spend any more money, a lady came over to tell me how great it was. She said that if I liked Elizabeth is Missing, then this was the book for me. And so I bought it, because who doesn’t like a classic ‘whodunnit’ and a glowing recommendation?

This book was wonderfully written, with every chapter I was more and more engrossed, ready for the climax. 10 year-old Grace is on a mission with her friend Tilly, sparked by the mysterious disappearance of her neighbour Mrs Creasy, to find God and to keep everyone safe. The narrative flows seamlessly between Grace’s charming, honest and humorous perspective and a third person narrative showing flashbacks that focus on her neighbours 10 years ago.

Set in the famously hot summer of 1976, the secrets of the avenue are beginning to spill. The disappearance of Mrs Creasy has caused a stir and as the tale unfolds everyone realises no one is safe from the truth. Kidnapping, arson, murder and Walter Bishop; the mysterious Boo Radley-esque figure of the neighbourhood, are all adding to the mystery that is Mrs Creasy’s disappearance.

Hidden under the ruse of a missing person, the book explores more than just an elderly lady gone walkabout. It touches on the truth behind what happened 10 years ago. Grace and Tilly embark on their mission, visiting every house on the street. With each visit and every conversation, the two young girls learn more and more about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mrs Creasy and why it might not be so good for everyone if she returns. But, nothing people say to them seems to be adding up.

Behind each door, every home has it’s troubles. Secrets wade in on relationships and Grace watches as her parents grow further apart. Even her relationship with Tilly is put to the test when Grace aspires to be more like Lisa Dakin. This coming of age story reminds us of the importance of friendship in the midst of the unknown.

Cannon’s story is portrayed under an umbrella of togetherness. The avenue and their secrets aren’t safe unless they’re all in this together. The street is united together by their secrets and their distaste towards Walter Bishop. Grace and Tilly come to realise that it only takes two people to believe in the same thing to feel like a part of something. With every chapter and conversation you get closer and closer to uncovering the truth behind why and, if you’re like me, you feel sad for the outsider that is Walter.

This book shows the everyday life of a British community within the 1970s and is charming and compassionate; interesting from the first page and completely understated. Unfortunately, a little too understated.

With the mystery of missing Mrs Creasy coming to a close, the threat of the truth coming out is more real than ever. But nothing happens. Mrs Creasy returns on a bus and the first spot of rain in weeks appears. While the rain suggests a change in the street, (classic pathetic fallacy), you are only left to assume what comes next and that is just so deeply unsatisfying. Will life carry on as it always did or does the street unravel? Where is the drama, Joanna Cannon? Where is the climax I’ve been waiting for?

Favourite quotes:

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

“‘I’m going for a pint with the lads, Mam.’
‘The lads?’ She took a Turkish Delight.

‘Yes, Mam.’
You’re forty-three, Brian.’

“We sat on two giant plant pots at the back of Mr Morton’s Shed. You couldn’t really call it Mrs Morton’s shed, because even after a person has disappeared, there are still some places left in the world which will always belong to them.”

And so, with a heavy heart and shattered expectations, I award this book:

2.5/5 Mockingbirds

Beth xo



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