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The Trouble With Goats and Sheep (Review)

During what has been a tumultuous year, The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon swooped in to save me from utter despair with its humour, intelligence and compassion. Set in England in the summer of 1976, an arguably more peaceful era, we follow the ten-year-old protagonists Grace and Tilly as they search for a missing neighbour and signs of an elusive God. Told from the perspective of a child, the disarming innocence brings to life a community with the wry tenderness reminiscent of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird”.

As they dig for answers in ‘The Avenue’ where they reside, Grace and Tilly encounter the private disappointments that appear to fuel public prejudices. The neighbours begin responding to the mystery of Mrs Creasy’s disappearance with increasing fear and intolerance toward those who don’t ‘fit it’, a condition which has come to define our times. As the story progresses it become apparent that the denizens of the street are harbouring their own guilty secrets of which they fear discovery. Increasing desperation finds them taking solace in an apparent and rather hilarious miracle.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep excels at recreating a soon to be forgotten era, where people aren’t driven to distraction by their devices, and are often found to rely on their wits to battle boredom. Those familiar with life in England will revel in the generous helpings of nostalgia that permeate the book. You will be left yearning for a simpler time which can come as a relief in these troubled times.

Joanna Cannon’s background in psychiatry gives this novel a sense of urgency, appealing to us to spare a thought for those living on the fringes of society. The patience and compassion exhibited here sits in stark contrast with the hysteria and tacit demonizing of mental health sufferers we see on the 24-hour news cycle. These are ordinary people dealing with ordinary struggles, and the only condition capable of tipping them into tragedy is the crippling fear of those that don’t fit in.

Aysha Raja

Aysha Raja

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