A delight today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Needlemouse, the debut novel from Jane O’Connor, published by Ebury Press in paperback on 27th June, and also available as an ebook and audiobook. My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invitation to join the tour, and to the publishers for my advance reading ecopy, provided via netgalley.
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.
There is a slight problem in being the 28th blogger on the paperback blog tour (and there was an earlier e-book tour too) – I desperately want to say something highly original, but I’m pretty sure it’s all been said before!
But I thoroughly enjoyed this book: while the quirky single lady is everywhere at the moment, this book finds a quite different angle, and I thought the writing and characterisation was absolutely excellent. While I might not have done so at first, I grew to love Sylvia – as prickly as the hedgehogs she helps to look after, her blind devotion to her Prof is so well done, and rather than making her a figure of fun I couldn’t help feeling for her as her actions begin to blow her life apart. She’s really the most extreme of unreliable narrators – but unlike the “norm”, where you might be questioning that unreliability, her behaviour becomes so over-th-top that there’s never any question or doubt.
It’s very funny – and you feel almost embarrassed to be laughing, and as a fellow single in later life it sometimes felt rather uncomfortably close to home – and I really enjoyed the way her story then played out. The emotional content and the story telling is quite enchanting, as it becomes clear what has made her as she is, and the hedgehog sanctuary becomes her salvation too. The subsidiary characters are also thoroughly excellent – I had a particular soft spot (surprisingly…) for Prof’s wife, and (of course) for gentle Jonas and his daughters.
A very different read, and a rather lovely one – highly recommended.
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.