I’m bringing you a review today of a book which I adored. Needlemouse tells the story of Sylvia Penton through her diaries. Sylvia is very dedicated to her job at a University, rather set in her ways, single in her 50s, a volunteer at a local hedgehog sanctuary and secretly in love with her boss Professor Lomax.
When it comes down to it, Sylvia is basically a stalker! As well as working with Prof, as she calls him in her mind, she keeps a close eye on what he does out of work too by a variety of means. She is completely blinkered to any of his faults and clings onto any little thing that she thinks shows he secretly loves her too and is just waiting for the right moment to declare it. Although we only hear her side of things told through her diary, you can tell from what she writes about other people how she misunderstands and is misinterpreting things to suit her own beliefs. She is besotted by Prof and convinced they will be together, if only he would realise how much he needs her.
Sylvia is only just beginning to realise how lonely she is. As we learn what has happened to Sylvia to make her the quite closed off character we see, we begin to realise why she has metaphorically curled up into a ball to protect herself, just like the hedgehogs in the sanctuary. My heart went out to her as I realised the repercussions of her what had happened had huge impact on her relationship with her sister in particular. I could understand why she chose to react the way she did and ached for all the heartache it caused her through the years.
More than once I was thinking what are you doing Sylvia?! She makes some really bad decisions in her attempts to protect Prof as she sees it. My heart did go out to her when perhaps inevitably, her life comes crashing down around her and she realises just how little she has.
The hedgehog sanctuary is Sylvia’s sanctuary too though she doesn’t realise it at first. I loved the character of Jonas who was wise, kind and compassionate. He always listened to her, even though she didn’t always reciprocate. He is the one who knew that for Sylvia to move on with her life, she had to make peace with herself.
“The way I see it, lass, the most important things is for you to find a way to forgive yourself.”
I like a book that make me feel uplifted, that soothes the soul, and this book certainly did that. This is definitely going to be on my top read list for this year. I love Sylvia fiercely! Comparisons have been drawn to Eleanor Oliphant and Susan from The Cactus. If you enjoyed these books, I’m sure you’ll love this too. I enjoyed both those books very much but, if anything, I liked this book more. Sylvia is definitely one my favourite fictional characters.
“Hedgehogs may have been misunderstood in the past, but the truth is they are precious and harmless (unless you happen to be a slug). Just because they are not easy to stroke and live a secretive sort of life, doesn’t mean they are not worth loving.”
My thanks to the publishers Ebury Press for my e-review copy of this book via Netgalley and to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the blogtour. Needlemouse is available now in all formats. You should be able to buy or order it from your usual book retailer or you can order a Kindle copy online here: Needlemouse
From the back of the book
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…
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.