the year in books :: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep


Last month, as a variation from the usual #theyearinbooks format, I invited fellow participants  to read the same novel along with me: Joanna Cannon’s debut, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Harper Collins were kind enough to give away copies to 15 readers, and I know that others of you have bought or borrowed copies too. I finished the book a couple of weeks ago, and have been very much looking forward to chatting to you about it.

If you’ve been reading the novel along with me (or if you’ve read it independently but would like to join in),  we have an exciting #theyearinbooks Twitter chat scheduled for this Monday 14th March at 9pm GMT. The novel’s author, Joanna Cannon, will be joining us for this special chat, giving us a unique opportunity to find out more about her, and about the book.

I was sent some book-group discussion questions by the folks at Harper Collins. I’ve adapted them, and added a few of my own. The questions that follow will form the basis of Monday’s Twitter chat. If you are reading along but aren’t on Twitter, you can still respond if you would like to: in a blog post, Instagram post, or in my blog comments.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts…

The Year in Books Discussion Questions for The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon 

1. Why do you think Joanna Cannon set the novel during the heatwave 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?

3. To what extent is The Trouble With Goats and Sheep concerned with the ways in we which judge others?

4. Do you think that a small community like The Avenue is more a force for evil or for good?

5. What sorts of maternal relationships do we see on The Avenue?

6. In what ways do the different characters in the novel carry their secrets?

7. Who do you think is the better detective, Grace or Tilly? How do their distinct personalities affect their sleuthing?

8. Do you think Dorothy Forbes has difficulty with her memory? How does her relationship with her husband John affect that?

9. The children in this novel see the relationships and interactions on the Avenue with more truth and clarity than the adults do. Would you agree?

10. How does the message of the vicar’s sermon about goats and sheep relate to events on The Avenue?


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  • Just a follow-up to say thanks so much for co-ordinating this, it was a really interesting chat, and thank you again for the giveaway too x