Brilliant! I wanted this book to go on and on. The writing is hilarious, descriptive and wonderfully insightful. I was taken right back to my own childhood, Joanna Cannon has captured all of it. What we did as kids, who we looked up to, and what we thought of our neighbours. In my minds eye, I see my own childhood street, with people I knew and their lives which were objects of gossip by adults.
Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.
And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…The beginning of this books drew me right in immediately.
“21 June 1976
Mrs Creasy disappeared on a Monday.”
The story is told primarily through Grace and Tilly her friend who are ten years old and are looking for God and Mrs Creasy. With the point of view with the adults and the young girls, the innocence of children shines through in a tale of dark secrets in a cul-de-sac.
‘On Sunday, we went to church and asked God to find Mrs Creasy.
My parents didn’t ask because they were having a lie in, but Mrs Morton and I sat near the front so God could hear us better.’
I loved the mix of characters and could almost identify them. Each of the residents are very individual and gave their own stories which Joanna Cannon slowly uncovers, just like you would learn in real life. Oh I felt myself eager to learn more as if I was at a garden fence! I had almost moved into the street it became so familiar with her story telling.
The secrets which are revealed bit by bit in the adult world are only glanced at by the Gracie and Tilly who understand only a little of it but can take it in all the same. They have their own mysteries to solve whilst the cul-de-sac revolves around bigger gossip and bigger mysteries. They are going to find out what happened to Mrs Creasy.
Cannon has a way of writing that speaks volumes of a recent bygone age.
‘By Thursday, her name was being passed over garden fences and threaded along the queue at the shop counters.’
I love the childish humour in this book, and there is so much of it, I kept wanting to say “here listen to this..and this..oh and this” I was laughing out loud and thinking ‘oh yes’ to the memories it was invoking.
There is a darkness running through the The Trouble With Goats And Sheep which appears hidden amongst the secrets but Cannon shows them to us from time to time.
Once the residents decide that Walter Bishop at number eleven may have something to do with the disappearance the men of the avenue decide to confront him.
‘These are working men, factory men. Men who claw at a pit face all week, or spend their days lifting earth and stone. They are travelling towards number eleven, their boots heavy on the tarmac, their fists closing around their tempers.’
The descriptive genius continues over and over, this is what makes this book so special. Canon is explaining how normal these things are in an extraordinary tale.
Through Grace we see how each summer holidays children grow and learn something new losing a little bit more of innocence.
“I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and life of their own. I had yet to realise that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you have let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owner of you.”
The cruelty of children learning social skills…..explained beautifully.
‘We waited in silence, Tilly, me and the argument. It didn’t feel like one of my parents’ arguments, where everyone stamped and slammed, and made a lot of noise. This argument was cautious and well behaved, and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it next.’
This is an author who has immense writing skills in conveying many things in one sentence; when something is exposed, people often bear it without drawing attention to themselves, knowing that the world is watching them.
‘She hadn’t turned round when the sobbing began. She had not spent fifteen years facing the front, and she wasn’t about to look away now.’
This is simply a beautiful descriptive observation of seasons within the cul-de-sac.
are the last few days before winter gathers her skirts and wraps the evenings in darkness; the last looks at chalked clouds and apple-green lawns, until the frost rushes in and hurries them away.
Why is this book different and why would I recommend it?
For me sharing some of the passages speaks for themselves, in my review I am saying look how beautiful the writing is. Look how Joanna Cannon can reach into you and show you things you can unknowingly relate to completely. I absorbed this book totally, and enjoyed it immensely. It is one of those books you need to read again to catch an essence of the ‘life’ of these people.
So, is the mystery of Mrs Creasy’s disappearance solved? Do we find out what happened to the missing child, and the fire, well now, who really was to blame?
The ending is a sort of cliff hanger! Just when I wanted to know more….it ended but I was certainly not dissatisfied.
Next I would love Gracie to continue to tell us of her world as she grows up!
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published January 28th 2016 by The Borough Press (first published October 22nd 2015)
Original TitleThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Literary AwardsWoman & Home Reader’s Choice Award for Best Debut Novel Of The Year (2016)
Thanks to the Publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book, I am so pleased to have read it.