Jackie magazine and Angel Delight: the stuff of growing up in the 70’s, along with the long, hot summer of ’76. Joanna Cannon sets her novel in that shimmering summer with lashings of Angel Delight. Grace and Tilly are ten, when Mrs Creasy goes missing. They decide to pose as Brownies in pursuit of badges to search for God in their cul-de-sac and find Mrs Creasy whilst they are at it.
We get to meet the residents of The Avenue and learn their secrets. What looks to be so unruffled and calm on the surface is actually a teaming mass of secrets. Dorothy and Harold, sweet devoted couple or a bullying dismissive husband and cowed wife? Walter Bishop, obviously a bad man everybody hints at it, he’s odd and doesn’t fit in. Mrs Morton, widowed and caring.
Slowly, almost every assumption that we’ve made about each of the residents has a different lens put on it and suddenly the facts reorder into a different kind of truth. All the time Grace and Tilly keep on searching. Eventually they find Jesus living on a garage wall, everybody gathers to stare and the secrets spill out at an even faster rate.
I loved this search. Every time the perspective changed you thought of course, so clever, why didn’t I see that? There are many strands flowing through THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP (a quote from Matthew’s gospel) some of which don’t end up being plaited into the main story. Indeed this is one of those books where at the end you ask yourself, what happened there and spend time tying and retying the knots. Ultimately this is a fantastic journey to go on but while the destination is worth the trip maybe it is a tiny bit disappointing once you arrive.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP by Joanna Cannon
Published by The Borough Press
Paperback £7.99, Kindle £1.99