The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Review published on July 28, 2017.

Joanna Cannon has written a cracking good first novel. She achieves the difficult feat of including brilliant descriptions of people, items, seasons, etc with believable dialogue – the latter so often being quite stilted in novels composed in a ‘literary’ style.

The book is set in the seemingly endless hot summer of 1976 and centres around a group of neighbours living in a cul-de-sac. One Monday, Mrs Creasy goes missing, setting tongues wagging amid much speculation. Two ten-year-old friends, Grace and Tilly, decide to turn detective to try and find out what has happened to Mrs Creasy, and secrets start to be revealed….

I loved everything about this book, from the carefully observed way in which people interact and converse, to the well-described summer of 1976. Recently there have been quite a few novels set in this particular era and season, but I don’t think any have really succeeded in depicting it accurately. Having been a teenager at the time, I can remember it well, and to my mind, Joanna gets it spot on. The stifling heat of that summer is so brilliantly wrapped up with the stifling nature and secrets of the suburban close where the story takes place. I particularly liked the subtle depiction of the highs and lows of friendship between the two girls, Grace and Tilly – pitch perfect.

This really was a fine example of a well written novel which was also a great page-turner – again, a rare feat. I am really looking forward to Joanna’s next book.

Maxine Forshaw 5/5

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
The Borough Press 9780008132170 pbk Dec 2016

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