The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon: charming and heart-warming

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The premise of this story is simple but brilliant: Mrs Creasy has gone missing; Grace and Tilly, a pair of ten-year-old sleuths embark on a search, but instead of looking for Mrs Creasy they are searching for God. After all, He knows everything, including where Mrs Creasy is hiding. Once God if found so will be Mrs Creasy. I found great affinity with the girls – similar notions bumbled about in my head when I was their age.

Joanna Cannon puts the whole Avenue under a magnifying glass. The reader has insight into the lives and personalities of all residents. Secrets seep to the surface, skeletons fall out of the closet. The author handles difficult themes aptly and without sentimentality. Bigotry. Prejudice. Sense of community. Social ostracism.

I revelled in Cannon’s prose, which is refreshing, elegant and lyrical. She is the queen of anthropomorphism. An example: “Before she disappeared, he never said I love you. Unsure of themselves, the words had become trapped and awkward, and reluctant to leave. Instead of saying I love you, he said Take care of yourself, and When will you be back? Instead of saying I love you, he placed her umbrella at the bottom of the stairs, so it wouldn’t be forgotten, and in the winter he put her gloves on the chair by the door, so she would remember to pull them on to her hands before she left. Until she disappeared, this was the only way he knew how, but since she had gone, he found that the words had become untethered. They fell from his mouth in the silence, certain and unashamed. The rattled under the bridge at the canal and tripped across the towpath. They waltzed around the bandstand and chased along the pavements as he walked.”

This a charming, heart-warming story about our inherent obstinacy and our equally inherent goodness of the heart.

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