Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights. (

What we thought: I have a real soft spot for coming of age novels, right back to my schooldays when To Kill A Mockingbird was the first book that really made me ‘think’ rather than just to read as a form of light-hearted entertainment. So, I have to say that I totally adored The Trouble with Goats And Sheep and can’t wait to read more books by this author in the future.

It’s hard to believe this book is a debut novel, it reads like the thoughtfully crafted novel of a seasoned pro, who has long ago found their own style and is enjoying the thrill of trying new things. I found the style engaging and intelligent, a story, though written mostly through the eyes of ten-year-old Grace, is still written with a warmth and understanding that connects you with each and every character. Grace's relationship with best friend Tilly is one of the highlights of the book, and the discovery of the meaning behind the title was a real heartwarming moment for me. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s a wonderfully thought provoking scenario perfectly described by these two inquisitive young girls.

Set in the summer heatwave of 1976, the suburban East Midlands’ street is buzzing with intrigue following the sudden disappearance of one of the residents, Margaret Creasy. Seen through the naivety of Tilly and Grace, each of the characters and their associated flaws are examined, on their hunt to find God among the sculptured hedgerows and buried secrets of the street.

In a style reminiscent of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, the author zooms in on the miniscule details of everyday life, laying bare the flaws and prejudices of the characters, and revealing long concealed secrets. There was little to find fault with in this novel. Research was well handled, raising a smile at the memory of long-forgotten Jackie magazines or Space Hopper toys. The story moved along at a superb pace, effortlessly guided by the author through the differing layers and threads that came together to make the whole.

This is a novel that stays with you long after you close the last page and I can’t wait for the next book from Joanna Cannon.

Highly recommended!

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Craig Silvey, Harper Lee, J.K Rowling.

Avoid if you don’t like: The 1970s

Ideal accompaniments: Fish finger sandwiches with ketchup and a can of Tizer.

Genre: Contemporary.

Available on Amazon

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