The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon
Just finished reading this little gem for this month’s book club, and it was such a pleasure. I had to do a bit of speed reading over the weekend to catch up with the rest of the club, but I’ve never found it so easy to gorge myself on 450 lovely pages of writing.
Goats and Sheep is set in a cosy little English avenue in the summer of 1976. Although I’m too young to remember this scorching summer, I’ve heard about it from my parents. Despite growing up in the ’90s, my nostalgia was seriously sparked by this novel, as I grew up in an avenue the shape of a keyhole, just like the one in this book. People lived in your pockets, curtains twitched, neighbours looked out for each other and children spent all of their time outdoors on the kerbside in summer. In Goats and Sheep, this environment is put to the test in a pressure cooker of heat, and when one of the residents goes missing, characters are examined through the eyes of 10 year old Grace, who narrates most of the novel with a wisdom beyond her years.
This book is British suburbia at its very worst and very best, with dark secrets and rumours uncovered and exposed, gossiped about and spread. Cannon herself is a psychiatrist, and this experience shines through each character’s personality as they are scrutinised by Grace and her quirky pal Tilly. As the pressure of the avenue builds with the heat of the summer, a dark climax arises with a literal clap of thunder. Full of little twists and mysteries, this book made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, giving us plenty to discuss about how we perceive, and ultimately treat, our neighbours.