The Smartest Sheep in GlennkillThree Bags Full
By Leonie Swann
It's said that variety is the spice of life, and I am a firm believer in that statement. Now, I am fond of scheduling and structure. Lists are my friends. However, no matter how set I get in my daily routines, I always find ways of changing things up a bit so things don't get boring. Sometimes I'll ask for hazelnut syrup in my coffee (shocking!) or perhaps I'll sport a jaunty hat if the mood strikes me. After last month's tome of a fantasy novel, I was a little burned out on the sweeping epics, so when I was shopping around for my next book to reivew, my eyes fell upon Leonie Swann's 'Three Bags Full: A sheep Detective Story' I picked it up without hesitation. And can you blame me? It's a book about sheep detectives...could it be anything but light and fluffy? Certainly not.*
So. Somewhere in Ireland there is a flock of sheep whose shepherd has been murdered. And not just murdered, but a spade has been shoved into his stomach, pinning him to the ground in the middle of the flock's pasture. Now, these sheep were quite fond of their shepherd, who used to read Detective novels aloud to them in the evenings, so when he turns up dead, they feel compelled to find out who killed him. They find clues around their pasture, observe the behavior of the different folks from town who come to observe the scene of the crime, and even make several sojurns into town themselves in search of anything that might lead them to the truth of George Glenn's death.
This book was a fun departure from my usual literary choices, so I certainly enjoyed it. However, I now understand why there are not more Sheep Detective stories. Sheep are dumb. No, I take that back. Sheep are simple. Their lives consist of grazing, sleeping, mating on occasion, and fear of wolves. That's pretty much it. When George's flock decides to investigate his death, most of their attempts to piece clues together ends with them all getting hungry and frustrated that their sleuthing is cutting into grazing time. Just when they get close to uncovering the mysterious circumstances of George's death, something weird and unexplainable (at least, in sheep's terms) happens and the plot loses its direction. I found that frustrating. It is a mystery, of course, and plenty of mysterious things happen in the mists on that cliffside pasture, but I found that for the most part the mystery was *too* mysterious and left too many loose strings flapping in the breeze, unresolved.
When I started reading this book, I prepared myself for plenty of sheep gags. I mean, I can't avoid making a sheep joke at least once a day, so I figured this book would be replete with them. Perhaps because it is a translation from German and some of the humor was lost in the translation, but I didn't find this book funny. Cute yes. Imaginative, sure. But not particularly funny. There were, of course, some humorous bits, but I found this book to be more philosophical than anything else. The sheep spend a lot of time contemplating their existence as well as their relation to the rest of the world. Now, perhaps if I knew more about existentialism I'd be able to make more sense of the symbolism and allegory that I'm sure just went right over my head. But it just so happens that I don't know much about existentialism, and that made the plot lag for me in some places. I do appreciate the irony of philosophical sheep, though. That's just magic.
I was back and forth on whether or not I liked this book right up until the end. However, the scales were tipped for me when I was scanning the last pages of the book after finishing it and I came across this disclaimer from the author:
"The sheep of Glennkill are exceptional sheep. Ordinary sheep don't tolerate either alcohol or drugs. I must ask my readers not to tempt sheep to take any narcotic substances. If you really want to give a sheep something nice, try bread or genuine grass."
Now, this note of warning does make sense given the context of the book (you'll need to read it to find out why), but the whimsy of it just charmed the pants off me, and I was won over. So take that as a warning, kids. Don't give drugs to sheep. Srsly. And read this book, as well. I'm sure *ewe* will like it!**
**Aw, c'mon. You didn't think I'd get all the way through this review without ONE sheep pun, did you?
Oh, one last thing before I leave you: I need recommendations for a good SciFi novel. I always lean toward the fantasy end, but I loved Ender's Game and I'm looking for something similar along those lines with good characters and a good story. If you know of anything, leave it in the comments. 50 EXP to you if I choose your book for a review!
Tired of the same old fantasy and sci-fi books? Care to keep up with the Oracle in her
quest for wordy-goodness? Follow along so we'll have something to talk about! Here's what we have on
deck for next time:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Oracle's Cult of the Literati
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