This readering group guide for The Trouble with Goats and Sheep includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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One summer day in 1976, Margaret Creasy disappears, disrupting the quiet lives of her neighbors on the avenue. Her husband is sure she’ll be back before long; the rest of the neighborhood blames it on the record heat wave they’re suffering. But the longer Mrs. Creasy is gone, the more people start to whisper about what made her leave.
After a sermon from their local vicar, two girls, Grace and Tilly, decide to look for God. Their search brings them to every house on the cul-de-sac, and as they question their neighbors, they inadvertently touch on old wounds and long-kept secrets, forcing the inhabitants of the avenue to face the past and admit that they might just know what happened to Mrs. Creasy.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think Joanna Cannon set the novel during England’s heat wave of 1976, and what effect does the weather have on her characters?
2. What do you think of Walter Bishop when he is first introduced? How accurate or extreme are his neighbors’ views of him? Did reading The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
make you think about how you judge others?
3. Is a small community like the avenue more a force for evil or for good?
4. How do the different characters in the novel carry their secrets? How does this reflect your experience among your friends and family?
5. Who do you think is the better detective, Grace or Tilly? How do their distinct personalities impact their sleuthing?
6. Do you think Dorothy Forbes really has difficulty with her memory? How does her relationship with her husband Harold affect that?
7. The avenue inhabitants have many different versions of the same story. What motivates each of them?
8. Consider the image on the drainpipe. Was it a divine message, or somehow spiritual? Why or why not?
9. The events of the summer of 1976 are formative for Grace and Tilly. Can you think of a particular summer memory from your childhood that left a lasting impression on you?
10. “The world is full of goats and sheep. You just have to try and work out which is which” (page 195). Who are the goats and who are the sheep at the end of the novel?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Imagine what happened when Mrs. Creasy returned to the avenue, and discuss your ideas with the group.
2. Grace and Tilly’s summer days can be measured out in television programs and spoonfuls of Angel Delight. Get nostalgic and think back to your own childhood summer vacations: what were the cultural moments, treats, or experiences that define those memories for you?