Sunday, 27 March 2016

Review : The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

 Summer 1976
Published by : Harper Collins
28 January 2016
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer purchased
The Blurb
Summer 1976
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.
But as doors and mouths begin to open and the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find more than they could have imagined...
Beware of straying from the flock for fear you'll be left out in the cold.
The Very Pink Notebook Review
I wanted to read this book, as I had the pleasure of being at an event Joanna Cannon was the key note speaker at, in which she outlined her journey of writing it, but I have to say for some reason the title of the book did put me off somewhat.  However, once I did pick it up I found it very enjoyable.  I liked the pacey, short narratives that flip-flopped between ten-year-old Grace and Tilly and the adult residents of The Avenue that help unravel the mysteries and secrets of the cul-de-sac all relating to the unusual disappearance of one of the street's residents, Mrs Creasy.
I got a sense of warmth and comfort while I was reading, thanks to the vivid descriptions of ordinary suburban life in Britain 1976, as memories of long hot summer days when you did run around unsupervised and were in and out of neighbours houses as a matter of course were piqued with acute accurateness.
I liked the characters of Grace and Tilly, I was pleased to see the bulk of the story was to be seen through the eyes of a child - something different - and for the most part I found their actions and exploration very believable, however sometimes I felt their 'knowingness' was a little too advanced for the age of 10. 
As the story unfolds you do get an insight into each of the lives of the residents of The Avenue, The Forbes, Eric Lamb, Thin Brian and his mother, Sheila Dakin and I thought the little glimpses into their histories, none of them glowing or without faults, was cleverly weaved throughout and helped strengthen the main plot - if you have secrets and faults of your own to hide, what better way to deflect it than to champion the highlighting of someone else's peculiarities?  If the finger and attention is on someone else it won't be on you and this seems to be the drive behind almost all the residents of the street - with one resident, Walter Bishop, bearing the brunt of the finger pointing.
Although I didn't get the sense of sadness throughout the book, the actual crux of the story is quite overwhelmingly sad.  In 1970's Britain it was not acceptable to be different or to stand out, and if you did you would be persecuted, both opening and subtly.  In order to be seen as a good and upstanding member of the community sometimes people could resort to new lows to make sure they seemed like a good citizen and would pick off the weak. 
Margaret Creasy, by being a genuinely good citizen finds out the secrets behind all the doors of The Avenue...
...And I suggest you read this book to find out if it is to her detriment...
This book is well worth a read and as such I give it :

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