Review: The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

When I’m feeling low or dissatisfied I often find myself nostalgic for an England that was never mine or never existed. A rose tinted community of simpler times without mobile phones and Google, when privacy was just that. Then I remember the privileges today’s society affords me and how little I would know without the internet.

Nevertheless, I crave the anonymity of the past as much as I crave the exposure of the present, and as such, I am drawn to stories that retell the era’s during and prior to my birth.

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep“England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God—they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.

Spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues. The cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in.

In the suffocating heat of the summer, the ability to guard these differences becomes impossible. Along with the parched lawns and the melting pavement, the lives of all the neighbors begin to unravel. What the girls don’t realize is that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was beginning to peel back just before she disappeared.” GoodReads.


The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is a time capsule of a book, I felt as though I was in 70s England. The references made me nostalgic and uncomfortable, the racism, the small town shame, the ‘unbelonging’ of people and how easy it was then – as much as it can be now – to see ‘difference’ in others and project your fears onto them. None of the residents as ‘normal’ as they would like to believe they are, but they can put up the pretence, they have their community masks they wear to fool their neighbours and not reveal who they really are. Walter Bishop doesn’t have that ability, he is socially awkward and doesn’t understand social conversions.

Walter Bishop doesn’t have that ability, he is socially awkward and doesn’t understand social conversions. He is an easy target, not only beause he can’t be explained but beacuase he reflected insecurities, ignorances and secrets of the close of houses in which he lived.

Only the children, Grace and Tilly, understand he means them no harm. Devoid of any agenda they were able to see everything clearly, while not understanding what they were discovering. Grace and Tilly, hunting for God in their community to keep everyone safe, were the unexpected guardians of their community. Like the disappearence of Mrs Creasy, they helped bring secrets to the surface and encourage openness and (in some cases) understanding.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep will take you into the past and or those of you (like me) brought up in a similar small community before the boom of mobile phones and internet it will be a reminder of how simpler times were not simpler at all.

7 thoughts on “Review: The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  1. A wonderful reflection on the process of reconstructing the past as better than the present (and how hurtful to do so!). I think that it’s time during my move to England to read Joanna Cannon’s book. Every blogger I trust loved it, and I think I will too.


  2. Simpler times do INDEED not seem simpler. They do seem duller, though. Not nearly as many books. Barely any comics at all. Absolutely no DVD players or streaming video services. How could I put infinity stories in my brain in simpler times? Couldn’t. :p


  3. I have just read this book and feel similar to yourself. I grew up in a small community, I was 7 in 1976 and there is so much about this which made me nostalgic It easy to look back with rose tinted spectacles. This was a reminder things are never as they might have seemed.


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