The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

  • by Joanna Cannon
  • Narrated by Paula Wilcox
  • 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Exclusive to Audible! Listen to the author talk about the inspiration behind the book at the end of this recording.
England,1976. Mrs Creasy is missing, and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, 10-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined....

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What the Critics Say

"Part whodunnit, part coming of age, this is a gripping debut about the secrets behind every door." (Rachel Joyce)
"An utter delight. Perceptive, funny, dark, moving. And so beautifully written. I loved it." (Sarah Winman)
"A haunting, perceptive novel about the price of belonging. It's a treasure chest of a novel and I loved it very much." (Julie Cohen)
"A captivating new voice in British fiction. Not since Nathan Filer's The Shock of the Fall has a debut novel held the promise of such an exciting career ahead. One of the standout novels of the year." (Hannah Beckerman)
"Cannon's interrogation of hypocrisy and prejudice is insightful and compassionate.... I didn't want the book to end." (Carys Bray)
"An excellent debut. This cautionary tale of a suburban power struggle is charming and truthful, at once ambitious and intimate, with playful prose that reveals an intriguing mind at work." (James Hannah)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

1976 - long, hot and a wonderful experience

Despite the searing heat and water shortages, the long hot summer of 1976 was a magical experience for the young and Joanna Cannon has done an incredible job in conjuring this era back for us to enjoy once again. I well remember complaining about the heat (!), the stifling houses with carpet the colour of cough medicine and long evenings pouring over the Kay's catalogue trying to work out if I could afford the 48 weekly payments of 25p for a pair of dream shoes. This is a story set in an ordinary UK town and follows two little girls and their wry observations of the adults in their locality. One man is treated as a rank outsider by the rest of the community and their struggle to understand why he is treated this way makes a very moving and poignant story. There is the mystery of a disappeared woman, an arson attack and a kidnapped baby all woven into a tale of everyday life filled with believable characters. This is peppered with very frequent laughs and the odd teary moment and is an overall triumph of unashamed nostalgia and humanity.

Paula Wilcox does a lovely job of bringing this book to life and handles the male and female characters with equal aplomb. After this impressive debut I am really looking forward to reading more from this talented author.
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- Kaggy

Secrets and Lies in a Smal Community in 1976

Any additional comments?

Set during the famous hot summer of 1976 ( with flashbacks to a crucial event in 1967) this is a story of several mysteries at the heart of a small community of friends and neighbours. On the day Margaret Creasey disappears from her home in The Avenue in July 1976 the community dissolves into whispers, recriminations, fear of discovery and suspicion.

After a chance meeting with the local vicar two small girls, Grace and Tilly, who live within the community, set out to discover what has happened to Mrs Creasey and to keep their community safe. The vicar has, they believe, told them that if they find God he will keep everyone safe. And so their summer holiday quest begins and they set out to separate the sheep from the goats, another consequence of talking to the vicar, without ever really understanding what he has been talking about.

During the cleverly plotted and jaunty narrative, told through the eyes of Grace, we discover that Mrs, Creasey is the keeper of all her neighbours' secrets and that one of the local residents, Walter Bishop is despised and believed to be a paedophile after the mysterious disappearance of a child in 1967. Shortly after the abduction there is a mysterious fire at Walter's home and, in the intervening years, his life is made miserable by constant accusations and threats, despite there being no evidence against him.

There are hilarious moments in this story eg the finding of Jesus in a neighbourhood drainpipe and some terribly sad, poignant moments too. The author has skilfully woven a tale of secrets and lies where every character has something to hide, even the children. It is wonderfully nostalgic too with references to all sorts of things from the 1970s and she is obviously a keen observer of the minutiae of everyday life. It is full of unspoken but clear messages about how communities treat 'oddballs' in their midst, how neighbours deal with one another, how marriages work (or not), how adults treat children and how children treat one another. Overall, it shows how corrosive a secret can be and that we can live alongside people without truly understanding who they are.

The ending of the story comes along very quickly, along with the rain that broke the famous drought of 1976. Margaret Creasey returns to her home but not before she has sent her neighbours a cryptic message, via the Police. All we get to hear of that is that the neighbours gather to witness her return on a bus, fearful of what is about to happen; they all have reasons to fear her return, except Walter Bishop who stands on the sidelines gloating. A clever ending, I thought, though some may find it disappointing or frustrating.

The narration was wonderful.

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- bookylady

Book Details

  • Release Date: 28-01-2016
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited