Three Bags Full – a sheep detective story

I stumbled across Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann quite by accident while shelf-reading in our large-print section, and I thought it sounded like fun.

And fun it was.  One morning a flock of sheep awake to find their shepherd dead in the field with a shovel pinning him to the ground.  These Irish sheep are clever and understand some human words and concepts because their shepherd used to read to them each day.  The cleverest one of them all, Miss Maple, decides that they must find out who killed their shepherd.

I loved the way in which the sheep remained sheep.  They think (I am guessing) like sheep and they act like sheep, not like people.  It was a wonderful look at the human world through the eyes of someone who doesn’t quite understand the multiplicity of concepts and layers of meanings that humans take quite as a matter of course.  It is almost Zen-like because the sheep don’t understand everything the way we would and so they come to the truth of the matter more quickly.   Some quite deep concepts are dealt with such as death, suicide, the will to live, the need for a community, aging, justice, fear and courage.  But they are dealt with slowly and simply.

This is not a fast-paced book.  If you need action, it probably isn’t the book for you.  This is about a murder in rural Ireland, where the pace of life is slower.  Each of the sheep in the flock has a real strength and a real personality.  The character development of each of the sheep is strong and is as carefully done as if the main characters were people. You get to feel you know each animal; you get to laugh at their silliness; and you get to be amazed at the truths they see.

This book is translated from the original German.  I hope that her next book with these dear sheep will also become available in English as I would really like to read it.

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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