Trouble with Goats and Sheep - J Cannon
A novel set in 1970s Britain, dipping back to 1967, in times of the Kays Catalogue (mules for 25p per week in 48 instalments), Angel Delight, public phone boxes taking 2p pieces, sherbet dips, police panda cars and Tiswas. The story is told from a child’s perspective of adult behaviour. It’s woven together very cleverly, with events from 1967 revealed gradually in reverse order, until the whole story is revealed.
It’s partly a whodunnit, partly a coming of age novel, with a suburban power struggle between residents of a suburban Close and Walter Bishop being unjustly blacklisted. The Kappors family move from Birmingham into the small community, and are treated with a polite form of friendliness mixed with confusion. One presumes there’s a Birmingham in Pakistan, another thinks Greek and Asian are the same. The Kappors are tolerant and sensible and take the nonsense well.
Ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly are searching for God in the heatwave of their summer holidays, at the time when Margaret Creasy, the only character who takes the time and trouble to get to know people and support them in times of trouble, suddenly disappears. Secrets are revealed.
This book is in a class of its own, about attitudes, assumptions and fixed beliefs, leading to ostracism, isolation and alienation. Everyone is ordinary, although some have done dreadful things. The author used to be a psychiatrist, and portrays troubled people very well, with humour. In one passage the parents have a row through the dog.
It is a subtle portrayal of how people function and how they mean well but really don’t understand. The characters are ordinary although some had done dreadful things, Jesus … or Brian Clough … on a drainpipe brought them all together for a while.
Marks out of ten – 8-10
Recommend to a friend? Yes, unanimously
June 25th 2020