Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor


About 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…

What I thought

52 year old Sylvia has led a relatively quiet life, never married and has no children. She helps out at a Hedgehog sanctuary run by Jonas an elderly retired teacher from his back garden.  He carries on with the help of Sylvia but most other volunteers tend to come and go and Jonas pays most of the vets bills himself as donations are limited apart from the odd bequest.  Even Sylvia isn’t that dedicated to the rescue of Hedgehogs and does it more to fill her spare time and for the companionship she shares with Jonas, now a widower.

At the beginning of the book Sylvia comes across as a very brusque and off-hand kind of a person, someone who is fond of her own company and likes to keep herself to herself.  However as the book moves on, more of Sylvia’s past is slowly revealed and the reader begins to realise that much of Sylvia’s aloofness stems from a desire to protect herself from hurt.

She works as a Personal Assistant to Professor Carl Lomax or ‘Prof’ as Sylvia fondly refers to him. She’s worked at the University for 15 years and has spent most of that time living in hope that one day Prof might leave his wife, notice Sylvia and dreams of living a happily ever after romance with the man she has idolised and looked after for so long.  However unrequited love can be a lonely and often frustrating path but Sylvia hangs on and looks forward to her monthly lunch out with the professor and the one day a year when he takes her out for her birthday.  When the new PhD student Lola, thirty something single mum turns up for her frequent meetings with the Professor, Sylvia feels threatened and sets out to both protect the Professor and her own love interest too, with less than favourable results.

This is a gentle and humorous story and yet quite moving in some parts. Sylvia leads quite a self imposed isolated life.  She sees her sister regularly, kind of tolerates her teenage niece Crystal and has the company of Jonas at the Hedgehog sanctuary when she drops in to help out.  But that is her life and her loneliness tends to seep through the pages at times as she wonders where her life has disappeared to.

The chapters are based loosely in a kind of dated journal format.  With each passing season, there is a short passage that tells us a little tidbit of information on Hedgehogs.  I liked this extra information that was included. I like the inferred analogy between a hedgehog and Sylvia, prickly on the outside but only to offer protection of their soft and vulnerable underbelly.

Just as Sylvia can be a force to be reckoned with and at times you wonder if she’s beginning to lose the plot, you can’t help but feel empathy for her and the situations she gets herself into.  The other supporting characters in the book all added to the story but my favourite had to be Jonas for his kindness and his calm, philosophical outlook on life.

I really enjoyed this book, would definitely recommend it and hope there will be further books by this author.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

The book is published on Kindle on 24th April with the paperback due to be published on 27th June.

Thank you so much to Penguin RH UK, Ebury Publishing via Netgalley for this advance copy.



2 thoughts on “Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor

  1. I’ve seen this book on several of ‘one to watch’ lists but have been a bit wary. I’m not sure why. I’ll definitely give it a go after reading your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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