The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

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goats.jpgWhat I thought:

What an absolute gem of a book. I actually finished it on New Years Eve and if I hadn’t already posted my top 2016 reads, this would have snook in there at the last minute, without a shadow of a doubt.

1976 in the East Midlands. Ordinary families living on an ordinary estate in an extraordinary heat wave. Narrated mainly by 10-year-old Grace, who is funny, precocious and brilliant, this is the story of trying to find God and Mrs. Creasey. Mrs. Creasey, one of Grace’s neighbours, has gone missing and the other residents of The Avenue are starting to act a bit strange which is when Grace and her best friend Tilly decide to go sleuthing. Inspired by a recent trip to Church where the vicar talked about God being everywhere, they decide that if they can find God then they can find Mrs. Creasey, so they set about their mission of knocking on doors in order to find Him. This was a great device for allowing the reader access to the other residents homes and lives which in turn drip fed us information about what may or may not have happened to Mrs. Creasey.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the pure nostalgia. I was almost 5 in the summer of 1976 so despite having heard about the heatwave many times over the years, I don’t remember an awful lot about it. What I do remember, though, is Angel Delight, Jackie magazines (I felt SO grown up reading those!), and circling items I coveted in the Kays catalogue (25 pence a week in 48 easy installments). The warmth and humour leaped off the pages right from the start and after a while I had to stop myself highlighting sentences in my Kindle because it was slowing me right down.

These are some of my favourites:

“How do you know that?” he said. “Because Tiswas was on.”

My Mother said I was at an awkward age. I didn’t feel especially awkward, so I presumed she meant awkward for them.

My Mother spent most of 1974 having a little lie-down.

Mrs. Morton got the Dandelion and Burdock out, and a new packet of Penguins.

Mrs. Morton spat on a tissue and wiped Tilly’s hands, even though there was a tap three feet away.

“It’s nearly Blue Peter.” Tilly slid from her chair. “I’ll put the television on to warm up.”

A tribe of girls, a uniform of Quatro flicks and lip gloss, with hands stuffed into pockets, making denim wings. They stood on the opposite corner, doing nothing except being older than me.

Brilliant! The references to things past (warming up the television!) to that feeling of walking past a pack of cool, older girls brought back so many memories I could almost smell the school dinner cabbage.

Verdict:

This book made me smile, laugh, reminisce, gasp, cheer on and worry. I knocked on doors with Grace and Tilly, I sat by the drainpipe with the rest of the residents, I twitched the net curtains at Mrs. Morton’s house. If you’re old enough to remember the references to things past you’ll love it for that reason alone, if you like humour in books you’ll love it, if you like feel-good books with a twist of mystery thrown in you’ll love it. In fact, you’ll just love it. Read it. Now.

Have you read this book yet? I’d love to know your thoughts.

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6 thoughts on “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

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