Cover Image: Needlemouse


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This was a bit of a slow read for me at first, I found it difficult to get into due to the nature of the main character. As the book went on it developed well and ultimately i found it to be n enjoyable read. I would recommend to fans of Eleanor Oliphant
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review :)

I've got goosebumps.Jane O'connor perfectly sums up the fact that everyone has layers nobody does anything just because,there is always a story.I must admit when I was started I was put off by the thoughts and actions of the main character,it made me feel uncomfortable. I am however glad I continued. Sylvia is 52 years of age and unlikable,in fact I very much disliked her. I found her to be overbearing,selfish,self centred, and quite frankly a stalker. After finishing this book I no longer feel she is any of these things, not really,she is just lost and life hasn't been kind. She works as personal assistant to someone we know as "prof" she is very much in love with Prof and has been for quite some time the feelings do not seem to be reciprocated even though she is very much convinced they are. Sylvia loves helping out at the hedgehog sanctuary. when she isn't interfering in prof's life,you get little snips about cute adorable little hedgehogs which I adore. We read on to see the outcome of Sylvia's obsession with her boss and we get to know a little bit more into her past to understand why maybe she is the way she is.

I would have liked more of an in depth look at the main characters life as well as a bit of a longer ending maybe with her sister finding out just how badly her husband had handled the entire situation. I do love the ending,but I would have liked more. Four out of five stars from me and I wouldn't hesitate to read another book by Jane O'connor.
Was this review helpful?
This book was too slow for me and I couldn’t finish it. I also didn’t like the main character very much. I wouldn’t recommend. Sorry!
Was this review helpful?
When I first started reading this book, I was getting the dreaded one-star vibes. The central character was so unlikeable that I honestly felt something close to hatred and didn’t know if I could continue to read about her childish and nasty ways. However, as I continued on with the novel, I found that it redeemed itself and I enjoyed the tale of a 52-year-old woman’s reawakening and personal growth as O’Connor paints a poignant picture of loneliness, ageing and unrequited love.

The novel’s title is hugely important to the message of the novel. We are told that “the word for hedgehog in Japanese, harinezumi, it translates literally as ‘needlemouse'” (91%). Sylvia volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary in her spare time and as we learn more about both Sylvia and her spikey friends, we find that the two are very similar. The title becomes a beautiful metaphor for Sylvia’s personality as we gradually find that her prickly nature is a form of defence mechanism and that she “feels protected like that, surrounded by her spikes. No one can get to her soft vulnerable parts” (12%). As we learn more about why Sylvia acts the way she does, this image is sadly perfect, describing a woman who has curled up out of fear to feel emotional pain and protects herself from any further misery using her hostile exterior.

As I mentioned above, I did not enjoy the beginning of Needlemouse, as I found the characterisation of Sylvia to be too hateful. Some of her actions towards the beginning of the novel made me incredibly angry and I didn’t see how they could be explained away, giving her any redeemable qualities. Though I still feel that her behaviour, at times, was disgusting and unforgiveable, the novel does provide a better understanding of what drives her to this demeanour and I found myself sympathising with her later on. It becomes clear that Sylvia is very lonely and, rather than make herself vulnerable and work on building relationships, she shrinks into “the small, proud place where no one can hurt me” (20%). After experiencing the type of pain she spent her whole life avoiding, Sylvia begins to see herself as she really is, as she exclaims, “how blind I’ve been about so many things” (66%). I loved to watch Sylvia grow, as she became more self-aware, and take steps to change her ways, for her own benefit as well as others’. O’Connor proves that it is never too late for self-development and that we can all work on being a better person if we really want to.

Additionally, I found the exploration of ageing throughout the novel very interesting, particularly in its portrayal of a female perspective. Sylvia considers how, after turning thirty-five, her

world changed, and suddenly it wasn’t about having everything to look forward to any more, having it all ahead of me. It was about a disturbing new feeling of being left behind and past my prime. (30%)

This is a poignant observation of what it can feel like to grow older that added to the sombre tone of the novel. I think it is particularly affecting for a woman to read when Sylvia contemplates her feeling of being an outsider as a “single, childless woman in a world filled with couples and families” (48%). As a young woman, I know that one of my greatest fears is growing old alone and never having a family of my own so I found this very saddening to read. I think O’Connor provided a beautiful yet heartbreaking account of an ageing woman in today’s society.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK for my e-copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This took me a while to get into as I didn’t warm to the main character to begin with. Similar to Elenor Oliphant, it shows you why Sylvia is the way she is. Was a very different read for me but I enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
I was sent a copy of Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor to read and review by NetGalley.
I have to admit I didn’t like the protagonist Sylvia Penton very much.  I know she was supposed to be ‘prickly’ but I actually found her very self-centred and sometimes just plain nasty – she didn’t seem to have any redeeming features to her character at all, in the beginning at least.  The story is told in the form of a journal so the only voice you hear is Sylvia’s, moving from the things that are happening in her day to day life to memories conjured up by these events.  This naturally gives a singular view of her life.  There wasn’t quite as much relating to the Needlemouse (hedgehogs) of the title but what was included was informative and interesting.  I can’t say this was the most enjoyable or well written book that I have ever read but it was engaging enough for me to finish it and not regret my time spent on it!
Was this review helpful?
Quirky, witty, and full of charm.

Sylvia is a 52-year-old PA who has a secret long-term crush on her boss, Professor Lomax. Although we quickly realise that the crush is actually an obsession, bordering on stalking. She will not let anyone get close to Prof, convinced that one day they will be together. Take Prof out of the equation, and Sylvia is a lonely lady who spends her weekends tending hedgehogs. She lives for this man and puts all her energy into her adoration for him. When she witnesses Prof and a student getting closer, she oversteps the boundaries and finds herself in a situation that could ruin everything. Not just with Prof, but with her other big secret too.

As a huge Eleanor Oliphant fan, I'd heard this book had a similar feel and it certainly didn't disappoint. Sylvia was a cantankerous grump that I totally connected with. I sympathised with her completely as I could see how she got into the situation with Prof, being blinded by love and taking his tokens of affection like a lovestruck teenager. She was also battling another secret that left her vulnerable and alone. I feel like it's an unpopular opinion but I honestly loved Sylvia. The book was a breath of fresh air and a fantastic debut.
Was this review helpful?
This is a charming and consuming tale, it thoroughly enjoyed the range of characters and their quirks and was willing the heroine to get her happy ending. It's a lovely story and I didn't want to put it down, perfect for curling up with x
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
It was a refreshing change to read a story with the main character aged over 50. You might think we have life and all its challenges sussed when we get to that point in our lives but I’m bursting the bubble, it’s a myth. 🙂

Sylvia may come across as a self-obsessed bitch at first but as always, there is something driving that behaviour and it becomes clear why she is fixed on the unobtainable and misinterprets actions. Having said that, I did think she either had a personality disorder or maybe she was on the autistic spectrum when you consider how she felt as a child/teen. She did amuse me. But however you look at it, she is vulnerable.

I loved the hedgehog sanctuary and the snippets from Jonas’ ‘The Hedgehog Year.’ Sylvia’s humanity does come through with Jonas and this caused me to waver between disliking her and thinking she was actually ok. This sub-plot in the story brought me tears of sadness.

You’ve got to love a resolution where everyone gets what they deserve. I thought it was the perfect exit for Sylvia.

Needlemouse is a story of secrets, family fracture and redemption. I think it shows us that we should be talking about our experiences in life so that we can get emotional support and not go on to make mistakes with far-reaching consequences. Recommended!
Was this review helpful?
This book has been on my TBR list for far too long and as I wanted to read something completely different,  I thought this fitted the bill perfectly (and I have a real soft spot for hedgehogs!)

Sylvia is a single mature lady who lives alone and is far too dedicated to her job at a university. Actually, it is more her boss who she is dedicated to, in fact, she is head over heels in love with him. This unrequited love, however, is an obsessive fantasy which her brain has formulated to cloak the deep loneliness which engulfs her. Sylvia is bitter and derogatory towards her friends, colleagues, and family but the reasons behind this become evident as the story unfolds.

I loved the chapters at the hedgehog sanctuary especially Jonas who is quiet, kind and wise beyond words. Sylvia only volunteers to fill her spare time but this place gradually melts her cold exterior.

This is a brave debut with a main character who is distinctly unlikeable. I enjoyed Sylvia’s story and finding out the secrets she carried with her for decades. There are plenty of warm, kind characters who are portrayed brilliantly and really help to give balance to the plot. The end is intensely satisfying and truly heartwarming, I look forward to reading more from Jane O’Connor.
Was this review helpful?
Sylvia is 52 and on her own. Her life is only filled with work, as a PA to a university professor and volunteering a few hours a week at a hedgehog sanctuary. Hedgehogs are mostly solitary animals, like Sylvia. Her life is empty and uninspiring. She also plays second fiddle to her outgoing, happy go lucky sister. 
The themes of the book are interesting, as women do get older and they haven't married or had children, I think society do paint them in a certain light and I think this book plays up to that image of the lonely old spinster. Insecurity creeping in. Feelings of getting left behind. Friends and family getting married, having babies, doing things "normal" people do.

There's a difference between being a quirky character or an unlikeable character though. And for me Sylvia falls into the unlikeable character. 
I'm all for the sisterhood and women raising each other up. But Sylvia is so nasty and negative, tearing women down for her own benefit. I think as the reader we're supposed to feel sorry for her. But she's the type of person who blames everyone else, nothing is her fault. She's infatuated with her boss, it's unhealthy and is actually her downfall. She also calls him the prof all the time which made me cringe. Prof this, prof that. 

She does soften the longer the book goes on as she begins having a better relationship with her teenage niece. And begins building better relationships with people around her and that's definitely a more enjoyable part of the book. But I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would.
Was this review helpful?
I had a hard time getting into this book, but once I did I was impressed by the way the author portrayed how damaged the main character was.  You start off with a pretty unlikeable heroine but as the book progresses you come to understand that her behavior is a defense. .The second half of the book is much more uplifting.
Was this review helpful?
This was another of those books I couldn’t put down.  it describes itself as an uplifting novel perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (I’ve not read, but feel like I should).  The heroine, Sylvia has a secret, she’s in love with ‘Prof’ the thing is he has no idea, and he’s her boss.  Sylvia lives for work, and ‘Prof’ but also for her volunteering at the hedgehog sanctuary and while you might not warm or even like Sylvia, you can’t fail to like this book, hedgehog fan or not.

And if you’re wondering why Needlemouse, that’s the Japanese translation of the name for hedgehogs, I think I want to call them that now rather than hedgehogs…
Was this review helpful?
Sylvia is in love with ‘Prof’- she is his personal assistant  & she looks forward to their regular lunches & lives for a kind word. She reads all his academic writings (whether she understands them or not!) & clings to the memory of that kiss under the mistletoe. When an attractive PhD student breezes in & starts taking Prof’s time she is consumed with jealousy & she makes her life as difficult as possible. Sylvia’s outgoing sister , Minnie tries to include her in family events but she prefers her daydreams & helping out at the local hedgehog sanctuary (it gives her something to talk about & makes people think she is nicer than she is!)
For a very large part of this book I felt so irritated by Sylvia. I really felt she was in need of psychiatric help – how was it possible to live like that? However I did persevere & I’m quite glad I did as by the end I was starting to hope for better things for her!
Thanks to Netgalley & the publishers for letting me read & review this slightly unusual book,
Was this review helpful?
Sylvia volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary to avoid questions about what she does on a weekend as well as forestalling any requests for charity support at work. She doesn't really like them, she finds the man who runs it with his grown up daughters a bit sad and pathetic and when she says that she does this to make her seem nicer than she is, she is absolutely telling the truth.

MASSIVE kudos to Jane O'Connor for having her debut novel feature a first person protagonist who is not just prickly but damn unlikable. She judges, and finds wanting, every person she meets, including her own family, all that is , except the Prof.

Her boss, the love of her life who actually treats her appallingly. She does everything within her power to make his life easier-including trying to ruin the academic lives of people she sees as a threat-but as a 52 year old woman, she keeps close every single moment he has ever been 'nice' or 'kind' to her as if she is about to go into years of hibernation and these things will nourish her.

But he is not nice, he is dismissive, vain and selfish to her unrequited love. Her birthday meal is when he announces his unfaithful wife has left him. He passes off a secret santa gift to him as her birthday present. He unwittngly gives her hope every time he is nice to her then there is the occasion when he drunkenly kissed her, the lynchpin of her desire and hope that one day something more will happen.

And you peel away the layers, unprickle her if you will, you see an intelligent woman who is in denial, she lives this life of unrequited living in preference of reality. It's almost as if life is hyperreal and she cannot cope with it, she buries herself in leaves made of rules, stolen looks, notes, even the Prof's teabags. And when she does go along with what is expected of her (going on a date arranged by her sister)everything that happens on it reinforces why she stays prickly.

Syliva is a complex character, I found her hard and unwieldly, judgemental and unprofessional in her behaviour at work and wondered if she would ever redeem herself as a good person at the same time challenging my perceived notion of what constitutes a good person. Especially a woman, and this woman in particular who is the wrong side of 50, unmarried, no children i.e of no use to society whatsoever. Her choices in living this life are seen as invalid and selfish and that is when I clicked, on her date , and through thoughts such as these-

''It's part of how I love him,demonstrates my commitment to him.If I ever feel hungry or start to crave sweet things or crisps I think of him and enjoy the deniual. I suppose that's what is meant by 'love is suffering' and I am happy to suffer for him.''

Oh my heart,

She is prickly but then so are we as readers, we judge her self confessed behaviour as not normal, but then she is reflecting what society expects of women and the expectations it has of conforming to a set standard and if we do so, the love we receive will be worth the pain.

It's a frankly wonderful debut , and I am so grateful to have met Sylvia and read about her journey to actualisation. And also learn so much about hedgehogs and what we can do, in our own little ways, to support them.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not sure I've ever read a character based book with such a dislikeable main character as Sylvia. She i s"in love" with her boss. Infatuated and deluded and you can see why colleagues of all levels see it and mock this sad 52 year old..

It's not until later in the book that we read about the events of the past that led to Sylvia's feelings of worthlessness and why she never really had a personal life, living through her more outgoing younger sister, Millie, when all she's ever wanted is a husband and family of her own. The title comes from Sylvia spending her weekends at the hedgehog sanctuary, run by the elderly Jonas. When Sylvia's life unravels she discovers who her friends are and a has to build a different life for herself, and we see a different side to her. Sometimes an uncomfortable read, but teaches us not to take everyone at face value. #needlemouse #netgalley
Was this review helpful?
4☆ A Charming and Quirky Novel 

I absolutely ADORE Hedgehogs 🦔 which we call them in the UK and I love everything about them. So as soon as i see this gorgeous book I jumped at the chance to read it. Just by picking it up I learnt that Needlemouse meant Hedgehog! 🦔

Sylvia is a bit of a recluse, she comes across as quiet brash, obnoxious, opinionated, a lil prickly and overly protective of her boss, who she has a major crush on, some might say she was completely infatuated with him! 
If only it was reciprocated! He is married and has no intention of being with Sylvia. Although it doesn't stop her!

Sylvia volunteers at a local Hedgehog Sanctuary, at first it appears that she is there for entirely selfish reasons, but as the story progresses she slowly reveals her softer and nurturing side which was actually pleasantly surprising. 
It's here she makes some pretty big discoveries and decisions about her life and future!

What i loved most about this book was all the facts and information weaved in about the Hedgehogs, some I already knew but was still so nice and really did educate.

Sylvia isn't particularly a likeable character she is deeply flawed but she does have redeeming qualities and a vulnerable side you can't help warm too despite not wanting to like her!

This is a story of unrequited love/ obsession/ infatuation, a need to be loved, Secrets, Drama, its a story of life choices, transformation and discovery and of course adorable Hedgehogs.
It's a character driven story that's a slower paced read which really worked well.

So if you are looking for a charming quirky Novel, that has a storyline thats interesting, engaging, poignant and educational then you will really enjoy Needlemouse.

Thank you to Compulsive Readers Tours for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
I have a distinct soft spot for hedgehogs (eventually we learn that ‘needlemouse’ is a rough translation of the Japanese name for the prickly critters), and I’m also very familiar with the type of administrative assistant or other holder of a gatekeeper role, who believes it’s their foremost duty to prevent anyone disturbing their employer with trivial matters. By trivial, of course, they mean any matter on which ‘lesser beings’ wish to consult their particular member of the ‘great and good’ – even when part of both party’s jobs. Sylvia takes her position very seriously, and at first it’s hard to like her as she does everything in her power to allow students access to the professor whose job it is to supervise them. However, we gradually learn there’s far more to her than we see at first glance.

Sylvia has been the personal assistant of Professor Lomax for fifteen years, and spent two thirds of that time convinced he is as much in love with her as she is with him – taking every small gift and kind gesture he gives her as proof – and convinced that one day his frequent rows with his wife – based, Sylvia thinks, on his wife’s infidelity and general unsuitability – will lead to a permanent separation followed by a happy ever after for Sylvia and the Prof. Sylvia doesn’t think much to the Prof’s students or to the fellow administrator with whom she shares an office, and her main workplace socialising consists of a regular lunch with the Prof and fleeting visits at rare parties thrown by other academics in the department. When the Prof announces that his wife is leaving him for good this time, Sylvia takes his side of the story for granted and begins planning for the day when he will ask her out romantically. Her plans are thwarted, though, by the appearance of a rival in the form of a new, mature, PhD student named Lola.

Sylvia believes that drastic action is required to prevent the Prof being led astray by this interloper, but her attempts to discredit Lola have disastrous consequences for Sylvia herself. Things go from bad to worse, when Sylvia falls out with her younger sister over a secret she’s kept for nearly two decades – losing the support of their shared social group in the process. Her only respite is the time she spends at a local hedgehog sanctuary, run by a taciturn widower with occasional help from his three adult daughters. Through her voluntary work, Sylvia comes to learn what’s really important, who her true friends are, and how she can make a better future for herself, in which she does not rely on scraps of affection from a very unreliable man.

I loved the structure of this book, with its division into the four seasons representing both time passing and Sylvia’s transformation as she goes into virtual hibernation when depression hits, but then emerges slowly in the spring as she starts to see new possibilities. I liked the unreliability of her narration. The book is in the form of a diary, broken up with excerpts from a pamphlet on hedgehogs – illustrated by this book’s author – even though that style made me unwilling to like her at first. And I cheered at the ending, which wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but seemed to be perfectly what Sylvia needed.
Was this review helpful?
Oh, what a wonderful and heartwarming debut novel this is! With some reviews it’s difficult to put into words how a book made me feel, but with Needlemouse I don’t have that problem at all. It’s a truly delightful book that left me with a huge smile on my face as I turned the final page, making me feel like I could go out and tackle anything life decided to throw my way that day! It’s such a moving and beautifully written book and, I’m not ashamed to say, it brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.

Oh Sylvia Penton, what have you done to me?

Now where do I even start with Sylvia? She was a character I didn’t think I was ever going to like. I mean, how could I? She was prickly, hard to get to know, with a mean streak a mile long. She lives alone, dedicating her life to her job at the local university and to her boss Professor Carl Lomax, who she has secretly been in love with for over a decade. In her spare time she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary, not due to her love of hedgehogs, but because it gives her something to talk about and makes her seem nicer than she really is.

But when a new PhD student catches the Prof’s eye, Sylvia finds her life spiralling out of control, with her behaviour becoming more and more desperate, until things finally come to a head, leaving her facing a lonely and uncertain future.

Some of the things Sylvia did in her quest to be with the man she loves made me cringe and, in all honesty, left me not really feeling much sympathy for her at that point in the story. But then, slowly, her prickly outer shell began to be stripped away until we could finally begin to see the real Sylvia underneath her hard and unfeeling exterior. And this was when my feelings for her began to change. Before long, when secrets from her past began to emerge, I could understand why she’d put up the protective walls that she had. And that was when this character who I really didn’t like or understand came to life for me, in ways I never would have expected.

Mostly told in diary form, only bits and pieces of the story are revealed at a time as we get to know Sylvia through her interactions with her work colleagues and family. Her friendship with Jonas, the elderly owner of the hedgehog sanctuary, was particularly endearing and it was this part of the story that made my heart melt and moved me the most.

Needlemouse is a quirky, fun and moving debut that’s full of warmth and heart. I loved it more than I ever thought I could when I started it, with Sylvia becoming a memorable character who I’m unlikely to forget for some time to come.

A gorgeous and uplifting novel that I would highly recommend. Jane O’Connor is a stunning new talent and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
Was this review helpful?