Time for a little sheep talk

Unknown-3Today (Feb 17) marks the first day of the Chinese new year and the start of the year of the sheep. According to the Chinese zodiac system people born in the year of sheep are polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They prefer the quiet life and are apparently especially sensitive to art and beauty.

You’d think then that these artistic creatures would feature prominently in fiction.  But these poor creatures have definitely been short-changed by authors. There are plenty of novels featuring dogs and horses, but our woolly friends barely get a look in. The first two options here are the only ones I could think of personally, for the remainder I had to rely on Goodreads and LibraryThing.

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick

A  science fiction novel published in 1968, this doesn’t even feature real sheep apart from a brief mention at the beginning. In it’s post-apocalyptic setting, most types of animals are endangered or extinct due to extreme radiation poisoning from the war. Keeping and owning live animals is therefore a status symbol so many people turn towards cheaper synthetic, or electric, animals to keep up the pretense.

2. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

A bit of a stretch I know since the lambs are symbolic rather than actual. They feature in a brief episode when FBI trainee Clarice Starling is forced into revealing her troubled childhood on a sheep farm where she tries to prevent the lambs from slaughter.

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, 
 A murder mystery  in which a flock of sheep take on the role of detectives when their much-loved shepherd is killed, pinned to the ground with a spade. Among their number are Othello, a “bad-boy” black ram; Mopple the Whale, a Merino who eats a lot and remembers everything; and Zora, a pensive black-faced ewe with a weakness for abysses. The Goodreads blurb calls it a ‘witty philosophical murder mystery” where the sheep’s discussions about the possible culprits turn into metaphysical speculations.  This could either be excruciatingly twee or deliciously funny. It seems to have built quite a following – the novel has been translated from the original German into 30 languages.
4. Sheep by Simon Maginn 
By contrast comes this  horror story set in a tumble down farmhouse in Wales where James and Adele son hope to find peace after the drowning of their daughter. When James unearths an odd collection of bones while working on the house, they begin to learn the nightmarish story of the tragic history of their home.
5. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s  third novel novel is apparently a blend of styles — part detective , part metaphysical speculation, part magical realism. Where do the sheep fit in you might wonder? They’re the subject of a photograph which catches the eye of a Japanese copywriter. He uses the picture to illustrate a newspaper, unknowingly becoming the subject of a hunt orchestrated by a Mr Big who wants to track down the source of the image before he dies.
So that’s it. Not exactly three bags full but there might just be something that suits the little maid who lives down your road.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on February 19, 2015, in Bookends and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I was going to add A Wild Sheep Chase, but of course you have it already included. Murakami uses the Sheep Man, a strange character to me at best, in Dance Dance Dance as well, and I even seem to recall him showing up in The Strange Library (but I could be mistaken). I don’t know much about the Chinese New Year, or sheep, but it’s a good topic for a post.

    Oh, and we can’t forget the wise old sheep in Charlotte’s Web!

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  2. Clever idea for a post. I read Silence of the Lambs years ago while looking over my shoulder repeatedly. Been meaning to read the Dick novel but somehow always pass it over….

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  3. I read Lambs of God by Marele Day some years ago and it’s stuck in my mind as a quirky book. It’s a bit weird – about three nuns living on a remote island. they keep sheep, knit and tell fairy stories. I did enjoy it.

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  4. I can recommend Three Bags Full. It’s an unlikely premise, but very entertaining book.

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  5. I love this so much. These days, whenever I connect sheep and books, I automatically think of Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing. It’s my next read!

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