Cover Image: Needlemouse

Needlemouse

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Member Reviews

Anyone who has worked in a school, faculty or department (they are interchangeable and change frequently) of a university will immediately recognise fifty-two year old Sylvia, the spikey personal assistant to the Prof. Sylvia guards the Prof’s time and space with the dedication of a rottweiler and she has been in love with him for the last ten years (the Prof not the rottweiler). When a glamorous new PhD student appears on the scene Sylvia fears her dreams of ‘happy ever after’ with the Prof are damned. She decides that she has to take action and this leads to her complete downfall.

Sylvia lives alone and divides her time between her job at the university and volunteering for the local hedgehog sanctuary run by widower Jonas. She has no close friends and only just tolerates the company of her mother, her sister Millie, her husband Kamal and their daughter Crystal. 

To be frank, at the beginning of the novel, Sylvia really isn’t a very nice person and I was sighing and tutting at her spiteful and underhand actions. However, as her story starts to unfold I found myself liking and understanding her more and more. Whilst Sylvia’s action lead to her world imploding in the short term they also make her re-evaluate her existence and, like a hedgehog at the end of winter, come out of hibernation and begin to live her life.

Jane O’Connor has crafted a lovely story with delightful characters, straight-laced Sylvia, scatty Millie, thoughtful Crystal and philosophical Jonas to name just a few. Sylvia’s journey to self-awareness is told with poignancy and care. I loved this novel and would highly recommend you read it, especially if you are a fan of Ruth Hogan and/or Gail Honeyman. Fun fact: needlemouse is Japanese for hedgehog. How cute is that?
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Sylvia lives alone and works for a university professor in whom she has been in love for years. No matter that the professor is married and totally unaware, Sylvia is convinced she is looking out for him in every way, waiting for the moment he leaves his wife to be with her. The new Eleanor Oliphant, Sylvia is not a character to feel sorry for, nor to be actively disliked. However, there are times when Sylvia's actions are unfair and downright vindictive. Yet Jane O'Connor manages to retain the sympathy of the reader throughout. Family dynamics play a huge part in the novel and address many aspects of sibling love and reliance. Even when Sylvia's world comes crashing down, entirely because of her own spiteful actions, the reader still has to admire her resolve. Her relationship with her niece is only explained later on, but then changes whilst Sylvia is beginning to change herself.
This is an entirely realistic, believable story with many twists and turns of sympathy and makes for an very satisfying read.
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Absolutely delighted that the Timor Jones’. page turner judges agreed to publish this book - what a loss it would have been otherwise!  It is a delight from start to finish.  Jane O’Cnnor writes with such depth of feeling, I loved the hedgehog comparison, the characters, the lessons learned, in fact there is nothing not to like about this book!  I hope to see it reach The Times top ten, it deserves to!
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Reminiscent of The Cactus and Eleanor Oliphant, both of which I loved, I bumped this to the top of my reading pile but I’m afraid it wasn’t in their league. Sylvia is a brittle, unloveable PA to the Prof who she has worshipped since she first laid eyes on him. Fiercely protective of him and desperate for him to devote his time to his academic brilliance she intervenes whenever anyone tries to go near him which alienates everyone around her. Her only social life is volunteering at a local hedgehog rescue centre and tagging onto her bright and bubbly younger sister’s family and social life. The reader is fully aware that the Prof is mediocre academically and more lecher than lecturer so it’s only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down around her. I almost gave up at the halfway point as I just wasn’t interested in her enough to carry on, when suddenly I was caught up in her story. Overall I found the plot too convoluted to be remotely believable but Sylvia is an interesting character with a compelling voice.
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Initially I wasn't sure about this book. Sylvia is in love with 'her Prof', a university professor she works for as personal assistant. When he confides in her that his marriage has broken down she is convinced that it will only be a matter of time before she and her prof can finally get together. It is clear to the reader that all is not going to work out well and I was initially frustrated with Sylvia for her increasingly ridiculous antics. 

As Sylvia's world began to unravel , I began to feel slightly sorry for her, and by the end of the book, I had developed quite an affection for her and was sorry to reach the end of the story.. Full marks to Jane O' Connor for completely winning me round.

We begin to see a different side of Sylvia through her relationship with her niece, Crystal. Their growing friendship is portrayed vey sensitively and as Sylvia starts to love and support her niece, she also starts to see aspects of herself in Crystal and starts to understand herself.

I loved the analogy of the hedgehog, which curls up to protect itself. We learn that Sylvia curled up a long time ago, and has tried to shield herself from the pain of past events. Gradually she starts to peep out and realises that you can't live life to the full, and be the person you really are, when you are curled up and hiding.

My advice to other readers would be don't give up on Sylvia at the start of the book when she comes across as prickly and unpleasant. The is another Sylvia curled up inside and waiting to come out.
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This was a lovely story which kept on calling me back to read just another chapter when I should have been doing other things. Sylvia, the main character, goes through a multitude of emotions throughout the story, initially as a rather emotionless person, apart from the infatuation she has with her boss the "Prof".She is hard and unlovable but does have a wonderful sibling, Millie, who is always there for her and smothers Sylvia with love, which was lacking in their upbringing. I had hoped for an ending that did actually happen rather than a journey that didn't allow Sylvia to move on and embrace all the wonderful things she did have in her life, so I was very happy to finish it.. A great read I highly recommend.
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Thoroughly enjoyed this book. As we follow Sylvia through her journal and discover her hopes and dreams for the future it was sad to find she has wasted so much time waiting.  At first I didn’t like her character very much, she was mean and spiteful!  As I got to know her my judgement changed as I found out her history and how the things that happen in our lives change the way we act towards other people.  The comparison between her and the hedgehog was clever, she had spent a long time in hibernation and needed to unfurl to enjoy life.  A ‘feel good’ read about human failings and forgiveness.
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Sylvia is a 52 year old single woman who is just vile. 
There is seriously not a single redeeming quality about her. 
She works in a university as a personal assistant to a Professor who she believes herself to be in love with. He of course, she is sure, feels the same way and now that he's finally getting a divorce, surly it's just a matter of time before he realises this. 

To give herself something to talk about, and because she wants people to think that she's nicer than she actually is, she volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary and it is in these parts of the book that I learned so much about Hedgehogs. 

There are some fantastic supporting characters in this book and even though Sylvia is horrid, watching her live fall apart because of her own selfish decisions, was quite hard. Even though, on one hand, Sylvia deserved everything she got, no-body would wish such things on their worse enemy . . .

An enjoyable book that kept me hooked and reading until way past my bedtime.
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My very first thought about Needlemouse was that it sounded a lot like The Cactus - prickly, judgemental, unsatisfied middle-aged woman finally waking up to all life has to offer. I really liked The Cactus, but I didn’t necessarily want a carbon copy of it.

Fifty-two year old Sylvia, who works in admin at a university, has been in love with her “Prof”, Carl Lomax, for many years, and when he finally separates from his wife she’s sure it’s only a matter of time before he realises his devoted Sylvia is the woman he’s meant to be with. (“If only Prof would hurry up and be ready for our relationship to properly begin, this awful feeling of living in limbo would be a distant memory.”) Sylvia’s sure this is going to happen, even if it means a bit of manipulation is needed to remove the potential obstacles. Of course, it doesn’t work out quite that way, and before she knows it Sylvia’s life is tumbling down around her ears.

The “prickly” metaphor here derives from Sylvia’s volunteering at a hedgehog sanctuary, and this is a lovely aspect to the novel (I’ve also learnt stuff about hedgehogs!). I liked Sylvia, even if she’s a bit of a horror to  start with, but I really loved the supporting characters - sanctuary owner Jonas and his daughters, Sylvia’s sister Millie and her daughter Crystal (Crystal was great), even “Prof” and his student Lola are, if not especially likeable, very believable and recognisable characters.  

Turned out to be an excellent read - I loved it.
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Thoroughly enjoyed Needle Mouse, it was a perfect fit for a cosy autumn read. I loved the main character Sylvia, for all her faults, and found myself in agreement and understanding with her throughout the novel. I was sad to say goodbye to her when I finished the book. I really believe there’s a bit of Sylvia in all of us!

The story Needle Mouse belongs to 52 year old Sylvia, an uptight and slightly unbalanced personal assistant to her beloved professor. Sylvia also volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary and likes to keep all parts of her life very separate and in control.

Sylvia is desperate for the ‘prof’ to notice that she’s everything he ever needs and is convinced it’s only a matter of time that he will realise her perfectly ironed skirts and the way she manages his schedule, is what true love really means.

Things start to fall apart when Sylvia goes too far, and her life starts to crumble, she realises she has wasted years of it and believes it’s all too late to get what she always wanted. Sylvia must learn to be kind to herself and understand she must also forgive herself and accept the past before she can expect anyone else to.
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What a fantastic book I really enjoyed this I cannot recommend it highly enough it was a really lovely book
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