I know that at least one of my followers has read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon but the rest of you may have an opinion on it too. I read it in a hurry this week – it was due back at the library and couldn’t be renewed due to another reservation, which shows how popular it is.
The story takes place over the famous hot summer of 1976 with flashbacks to 1967. It focuses on the disappearance of a woman and the repercussions this has on the rest of the people in the street. Much of it is from the viewpoint of a 10-year-old girl.
It took me a while to settle into the book because I was trying to read it too quickly. The pace very much reflects the languor of summer days that are too hot and school holidays that stretch forever into the future. The book needs to be read at this pace to appreciate the tiny details of daily life 40 years ago. The story is the slow peeling of secrets from the streets inhabitants – people aren’t always what they seem. I lived through that summer and, like 10-year-old Grace, collected Whimsies – little pottery animals that cost 10p. There’s lots of this exquisite minutiae and description in the book and don’t read it when hungry because a lot of biscuits are eaten too!
My only (very tiny) gripe is the brief mention of a bouncy castle – I don’t remember those being around as I grew up.
As a writer, this book has made me realise it’s the well-placed tiny detail that makes a reader believe in the story and want to stay in that imaginary world for just a little longer …
If, like me, your work tends to lack description, read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and watch how the reader really can’t escape the heat of the sun and the watchful eyes of the neighbours.
#1 by dianneanoble1147 on March 15, 2017 - 10:17 am
I just LOVED this book! Can’t praise it highly enough.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on March 15, 2017 - 4:08 pm
She’s got a great turn of phrase, hasn’t she, Dianne.
#3 by Shirley Stow on March 15, 2017 - 12:32 pm
This sounds like my kind of story, Sally. I will put it on my wish list.
#4 by Sally Jenkins on March 15, 2017 - 4:08 pm
Hope you enjoy it, Shirley.
#5 by hilarycustancegreen on March 16, 2017 - 8:42 pm
Sounds interesting, but yes, no Bouncy Castles in the UK until later 1970s.
#6 by Sally Jenkins on March 16, 2017 - 8:45 pm
Thanks for the bouncy castle confirmation, Hilary. I do wish they’d been around when I was a young child though!
#7 by Wendy Clarke on March 20, 2017 - 8:22 am
I don’t usually like long descriptions or imagery in novels but Jo’s use of them in Goats and Sheep drew me in completely.
#8 by Sally Jenkins on March 20, 2017 - 4:30 pm
Agreed, she did it with a light touch didn’t she, Wendy?
#9 by Kate Hogan on April 1, 2017 - 9:51 pm
Haven’t read the book, yet, but may do. Just thought I”d mention that 75/76 was the very beginning of the development of bouncy castles. I only know as I was involved with a bunch of creative types at the time and one of the group actually made them! He called them Harry’s Big Baloons – it made me wonder if the writer was somehow involved with the group in some way, as I think Harry’s Big Baloons were the forerunners of what we have today. Good wishes KH
#10 by Sally Jenkins on April 2, 2017 - 4:05 pm
Thanks very much for the info, Kathy! It’s possible there was a connection with the author and how interesting that you were in there at the beginning!