I am hugely indebted to Love Reading and to Ann Bissell at Harper Fiction for advanced reader copies of ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon. It is published by Borough Press in hardback and ebook on 28th January 2016.
It’s hot in The Avenue in the baking summer of 1976 and Margaret Creasy is missing. Ten year olds Grace and Tilly set out to find her – and God. Their search uncovers more than anyone in The Avenue might have wished.
Just occasionally there comes a book that is perfect and Joanna Cannon’s ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ is one of them. I’m reluctant to write a review as I can’t possibly do justice to this novel and I feel my words will sully it somehow. The writing is word perfect and every phrase is a work of art so that the reader sees perfectly what is described or intimated. Everything a reader ever wanted to say but couldn’t find the words for is there. There isn’t a dissonant note anywhere. Joanna Cannon’s masterful, understated and beautiful prose reveals more about character and feeling than any writer I’ve encountered in a very long time. I was hooked from the first word.
So seamless is the writing that I didn’t even notice the switch from Grace’s glorious first person account to the mesmerising third person of other characters – including the heat, which is as much a presence as any of the people. I didn’t so much read ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ as live it. I was Grace as I read and I’d defy anyone not to find elements in Grace and Tilly that reflect themselves as children.
The attention to detail, and especially the quality of the metaphors, makes ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ a kaleidoscope of emotion to read. It is breathtakingly lovely. I laughed and cried as I read.
The longing, the loneliness, the love all shine through; their light blurring the distinction between goats and sheep in a lesson for life for all of us. This may be billed as part coming of age and part mystery story and it is, but that does it a disservice. ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ is a beautiful, comic, sad and utterly, utterly wonderful tale of humanity and the desire to belong. Joanna Cannon has touched my heart and my soul with her novel. I won’t be parting with it.
‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ will be one of THE books of 2016.