Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor Ebury June 27th 2019
Time to come out of hibernation…
Sylvia Penton has been hibernating for years, it’s no wonder she’s a little prickly…
Sylvia lives alone, dedicating herself to her job at the local university. On weekends, she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary because it gives her something to talk about on Mondays – and it makes people think she’s nicer than she is.
Only Sylvia has a secret: she’s been in love with her boss, Professor Lomax, for over a decade now, and she’s sure he’s just waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Meanwhile she stores every crumb of his affection and covertly makes trouble for anyone she feels gets in his way.
But when a bright new PhD candidate catches the Professor’s eye, Sylvia’s dreams of the fairy tale ending she has craved for so long, are soon in tatters, driving her to increasingly desperate measures and an uncertain future.
Sylvia might have been sleep walking through her life but things are about to change now she’s woken up…
A quirky, charming uplifting novel perfect for fans of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Sarah Haywood’s The Cactus. The feelgood bestseller about unrequited love, loneliness and the redemptive qualities of hedgehogs featuring the most unlikely heroine of 2019.
The title of this novel intrigued me and I started reading wondering just what a Needlemouse actually was, O’Connor didn’t tell me straight away, she kept me waiting, as she pulled me into the life of Sylvia Penton.
Who was Sylvia Penton? For me she was a woman who seemed rooted in routine, in self control and most importantly she was a woman in love. It wasn’t the all encompassing, passionate type, it was one sided, blinkered and I found it quite sad and heartbreaking. The subject of Sylvia’s affections was definitely not deserving, not the man who she thought he was, and it was unsettling to read of Sylvia’s protectiveness towards him, her need to shelter him from those who sought to distract him, to take him away from her. This was where O’Connor cleverly employed her hedgehog analogy, as we were given a Sylvia with the sharp needle like spikes and only fleeting glimpses of a soft interior.
That soft interior only ever seemed to emerge in her relationship with Jonas and her stints of volunteering at his hedgehog sanctuary. You desperately wanted that soft interior to take over, for Sylvia to wake up, open her eyes, much like a hedgehog awakening from hibernation, and to see the world from a new and differing perspective, a new beginning.
You could feel the frustration her family and so called friends felt and indeed yourself as you read, but that only made you desperately want Sylvia to have her happy ending. As her story unfolded, so your frustration ebbed away, you felt yourself warming towards Sylvia that little bit more, you inwardly cheered as you watched as a new and better model of a woman slowly began to appear. You could forgive her indiscretions, could see that she wasn’t an unkind person, just lonely, afraid, wrapped up in a life that she didn’t want but didn’t know how to change and let go.
Needlemouse wasn’t one of those novels that plunged you into deep despair, that left you feeling bereft. Yes, it had its serious side, but there was a wonderful lightness, little ripples of humour, of being able to see the goodness in everyone no matter what they had done or said. It was full of hope, of being able to turn life around, and enjoy it even if that meant losing a little bit of self control and opening up just a bit more.
I loved the cover, I enjoyed the novel and I now know what a needlemouse is, so thank you Jane O’Connor for enlightening me.
I would like to thank Ebury for a copy of Needlemouse to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Jane O’Connor is a former primary school teacher turned academic and writer. She was born and brought up in Surrey and lived in London until she moved to the West Midlands in her mid-thirties. Jane’s PhD was about child stars and she is now a Reader at Birmingham City University where she researches children’s experiences of celebrity, media and everyday life. Jane lives in Sutton Coldfield with her husband and two young sons in a house full of pirates, dinosaurs, superheroes and lots of books. She really likes all animals, especially hedgehogs. Needlemouse is her debut novel.