By Lynn Willoughby
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep ~ Joanna Cannon
This is a debut novel that begins “Something happened on a particular day. I know it was that particular day because…” Not very original you say. Not very catchy. Not the enticing beginning I am used to in a book I find enjoyable. But persevere, folks.
This book is lively, is funny, is a study of people on one street in London during the heat wave of 1976. It is told though the eyes of ten year old Grace. Her observations are charming and give us a unique perspective on the the residents. Because of her age she is very literal, often funny and sees what others miss.
There is, of course, a mystery – or rather several mysteries, among this group of neighbours. Reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s series with a young sleuth, I enjoyed it a lot. And how interesting that while adults are busy shopping, cleaning, gardening, gossiping about the man who bullies his wife, or the neighbour still grieving for his dead wife, there is the man who “loves children” and is always taking photos of them and hanging around the playground. There is also the alcoholic woman raising her two out-of-control children. There is also the missing Mrs Creasey. Is Grace the only one paying attention??
As the secrets of this small community are revealed, the story becomes less of a mystery and more of a character study and the story of life. Pick any street and I expect there will be secrets, heartbreak, worries and shame. There will also be a shifting, caring connection between neighbours.
The title of this book is a provocative eye catcher, but you will have to read this little novel to understand what it means.