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Looking ahead to our February book club, our pick for the month is Joanna Cannon's debut novel, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep.
Set during the suffocating heat-wave of 1976, this is the story of a ten-year-old girl called Grace, and her best friend Tilly. When poor old Mrs Creasy goes missing, and the Avenue fills with whispers, Grace pricks up her ears, puts down her bowl of Angel Delight, takes Tilly by the hand and starts an investigation to help solve Mrs Creasy’s mysterious disappearance.
As the cul-de-sac where they live starts giving up its secrets – and the face of Jesus miraculously appears on a drainpipe – the amateur detectives will discover much more than they imagined. Their interrogation of all the adults surrounding them brings to light long buried secrets and the full horror of an event which took place over a decade earlier. This perceptive and poignant debut novel explores what it is to belong, and how we treat those who don’t. But scratch the surface of every sheep, and you’ll find a goat.
Joanna Cannon was born in a small Derbyshire town, at the tail end of the 1960s. As an only child of an only child, a great number of her friends lived within the pages of a book, and she soon discovered what would become a life-long fascination with words, stories and character.
Jo left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs: barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert, and although these experiences may not have felt useful at the time, they gave her a breadth of understanding about people which would later become invaluable.
Jo’s love of narrative had always drawn her towards psychiatry, but it wasn’t until her thirties that she decided to go back to college and finally complete the A-levels she’d abandoned some fifteen years earlier. She went on to study medicine at the University of Leicester and appeared on the other side with a cap and a gown, and a brand new title. It took her so long to get used to the brand new title, she still has to remember to turn around when someone says ‘doctor’.
Before specialising in psychiatry, Joanna rotated through a series of hospital jobs, from the chaos of A&E to the handkerchief quiet of palliative care. It was around this time she began writing a blog, which she found helped to empty her head of all the suffering she saw during the day. From the blog developed an idea for a novel, and Jo spent the next few months attending workshops in order to learn more.
Jo remains in the Peak District, with her family and her dog, where she continues to explore a fascination with words, stories and people. She is currently working on her second novel.
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep will be published by Borough Press on 28 January and will be available online and from all good booksellers. Don't forget that if you do receive a free copy you will need to add questions/comments to the thread, found here.