Cover Image: Needlemouse


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Jane O'Connor writes in her author's note that Sylvia is spiky yet intensively vulnerable and this perfectly describes the main character in this gorgeous book. Initially, I didn't like Sylvia. She is obsessive about the Prof  she works for, and woe betide anyone who appears in his life as a threat to that 'love'. She is vengeful and spiteful, and there was a touch of the she-devil about her. But it is a testament to O'Connor's writing that as the story develops, we begin to get a deeper insight into Sylvia's life and begin to not only understand why she is damaged and hates the world, but we also begin to feel a deep level of compassion for her. Without giving away any spoilers, a terrible mistake made in her past, and the repercussions thereof, 'deadened me inside and made me defensive and spiteful towards the world'. As her world once again implodes, a surprising connection with her niece Crystal helps her heal her emotional scars and become open to living fully again. Needlemouse teaches us that to forgive yourself for past mistakes is to forgive the rest of the world. To allow people to help you, to be honest with yourself and to once again find the joy in the beauty of the world is a gift that O'Connor has given us. A truly beautiful story with depth and emotion.
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I received a copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley for my independent honest opinion. Thank you.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a slice of life look at Sylvia,long suffering daughter to an overbearing forthright Mother,sister to Millie who is always in the limelight and long suffering PA to Prof Lomas whom Sylvia is madly in love with and has been waiting 15 years for.

It did take me a while to get settled into the book, mainly due to it being compared to Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. For me this gives readers a wrong impression going into this book as I feel this is different and unique in its own right. Eleanor has an endearing character whose choices are affected by her mental disabilities, whereas Sylvia knows exactly what she is doing and is extremely unlikable in the beginning. This I found hard at first as I had incorrect preconceptions going into Needlemouse. This book deserves praise on its own merits.
The writing style is excellent and despite Sylvia being so horrible, her character was so well drawn that her life  and long suffering devotion to her boss could so easily be several people you know in real life.
A Hedgehog rescue centre also features strongly for Sylvia and this gives a very interesting glimpse at these lovable creatures. I loved the  friendship with the old gentleman who owns it.
As the narrative continues and we learn more of Sylvia's  backstory she does become more likeable.
This is a lovely story about sisterhood, friendship, obssession and the choices all of us make in real life good or bad.
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Sylvia is a thoroughly unlikeable character at the beginning of Needlemouse, not to mention deluded about her relationship with her boss. We see the world through her eyes so it takes a while to grasp the extent of her delusion. Eventually her world comes crashing down and she withdraws into herself for a while. Like a hedgehog coming out of hibernation, she slowly starts to recover and makes some new friends. It really is a book of two halves and I definitely prefer who she becomes in the second half. The writing is very assured with well-rounded, interesting characters, especially Jonas and Crystal. I also loved the little snippets of information about the hedgehogs. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.
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Needlemouse is the story of a rather deluded middle aged woman who, over the course of the novel, learns to take control of her life again. She has a funny and rather acerbic inner voice and some of the things she does to further her own causes are wonderfully weird. Over the course of the diary entries, Sylvia slowly let's the reader in on her backstory - honestly, I felt for her but also really, really struggled to buy that the events described and her 15 years of behaviour could be quickly overturned in a matter of months. The relationships in this novel didn't seem strong enough for me to root for any of the characters and the way they may find back to each other. The hedgehogs were cute, but I felt quite let down by Sylvia and her human companions.
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"Needlemouse" was a highly entertaining and emotionally intense read that I loved more and more the further I got into the story. At first, I found the main character, Sylvia Penton, prickly, dislikable and pitiable, as I was meant to. Through her admirable characterisation, Jane O'Connor compassionately revealed that underneath the facade, the inner Sylvia was lonely and the traumas she had suffered in her life had created the woman she had become. She had to learn to engage with others and before I knew it, I found myself beginning to appreciate and understand Sylvia. 

I was so pleased and surprised by how much I enjoyed "Needlemouse" and I highly recommend this brilliant début.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel, at my own request, from Random House Ebury via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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For some reason I kept putting off reading this book as I thought it was going to be a bit twee and schmaltzy and I was never in the right mood. I wish now I'd left it even longer as I would still have a great treat in store! 
Ms O' Connor takes the age old story of unrequited love and embellishes it with some lovely twists - many to do with hedgehogs. I was really pleased that Sylvia the unlikable anti - heroine was an older woman rather than the 30 somethings who populate many contemporary books and her story unfolded with great warmth and empathy and had me really rooting for her at the end. A truly uplifting read and I look forward to further books by this author.
Thank you to netgalley and Penguin Random house for an advance copy of this book.
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Sylvia Penton is in love with her boss, the only problem is, he isn’t in love with her. She is pretty sure he is, it’s just he is married and is waiting for the right time to leave his wife. He hasn’t actually told her this, but she just knows it is going to happen. She’s in her 50s, single, lonely and her unrequited love for Dr Lomax is the only thing keeping her going. She is his PA, fiercely guarding his office from inconveniences such as students and fellow colleagues just waiting for him to want her. The only problem is, he seems to have his eye on somebody else.

I found Sylvia to be a bit of an unlikable character (which is not a bad thing), she is sly, mean and at times quite cruel. She almost recognises that she isn’t a particularly nice person, choosing to spend her spare time helping at a hedgehog sanctuary to make herself appear to be a kinder more sensitive soul. The comparison between Sylvia and hedgehogs is obvious as both are prickly, solitary creatures who hibernate. This is further reinforced by the facts about hedgehogs which are used as signposts in the narrative to signal a key moment in Sylvia’s story. I really enjoyed these missives, written by Jonas, owner of the sanctuary and found them oddly moving.

In fact, I found the book to be an emotional read and one which examined those people who have slipped through the cracks. Sylvia’s friends have all married, had children or found places for themselves in society. Her world has become small and her social life revolves around her sister who is married with a teenage daughter. Sylvia is isolated but has no idea how it happened, describing how her weekends went from alcohol fuelled evenings with her friends to weddings and christenings. Things seemed to have slipped away from her and she, like the hedgehogs she cares for has been in hibernation for a long time.

Her love for Dr Lomax, or Prof. as she calls him, is obsessive and is, in some ways a safe way to love without being hurt. Her behaviour is at turns shocking and upsetting and I found it difficult to read. I was almost reading from behind my hands at times and it was at these moments that I went from disliking Sylvia to sympathising with her and her ongoing loneliness. I think I found these moments so difficult to read as I could totally understand her mentality. I think at some point or another we’ve all been slightly obsessive over somebody who wasn’t interested and so, the occasions when she misinterprets or extrapolates something from nothing it almost felt like a jolt of recognition and the waves of embarrassment felt real.

There is some clever writing in this book and some moments which pack an emotional punch. I was almost lulled into a false sense of security, pitying Sylvia and, I admit, judging her quite harshly at times and then, the rug would be pulled out from under me. I won’t spoil it, but there are some wonderfully observed moments of pure sadness and desperation that took my breath away. These moments shine a light on important issues and I read some of these passages with a lump in my throat and fought back tears.

Jane O’Connor writes Sylvia sympathetically. It would have been easy to create a wicked witch type character but even at her worst she is never a caricature. This is razor sharp writing with much compassion and heart and I went from actively disliking Sylvia to understanding her. She is a great character who I enjoyed getting to know and whilst things were wrapped up a little too neatly for my liking I found it a fun read, a very accomplished debut and one which I would highly recommend.
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Sylvia is as prickly as the hedgehogs in the sanctuary at which she volunteers.  Her relationships with her work colleagues and family are problematic. When her work-life and the relationship with her sister are destroyed, how will she cope?  Really well written, the reader cannot help but sympathise with Sylvia. A really enjoyable book where, for once, the heroine is not always sweetness and light. And i learned a lot about hedgehogs!!
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I wanted to read this book because Hedgehogs, I mean really who can resist a story featuring Hedgehogs? This was a solid 3 star read for me it is perfect light entertainment for the summertime and you basically know what you are going to get. My one complaint? I wanted more Hedgehogs!

When we start Sylvia is not a very nice person and that is a good thing. Sylvia is in love with the wrong man (Prof is a s**t) she doesn’t appreciate her colleagues, she is petty and will go out of her way to get revenge on those who upset her and honestly I recognise so many people, myself included, in these characteristics. As the story progresses we realises that Sylvia is not happy with who she is and has no real friends, again this is totally relatable. We also learn the reason why Sylvia is so down on herself and it is this reason that leads to a major falling out and a complete change in Sylvia’s life. This change allows her to become the good person she has been hiding away for years.

Watching Sylvia hit rock bottom and working her way back up again made for compelling reading. I like that the happy ending is about Sylvia being true to herself and forgiving herself for past faults and not about being rescued by the handsome prince figure. Finishing the book I am left with the feeling that Sylvia is going to be just fine and that from now on she will be leading life on her own terms.

Who would like this? Anyone who likes Hedgehogs and anyone looking for a feel good, light hearted summer read.
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This book has been compared to Eleanor Oliphant and the like and I can totally see why! The main character is 'quirky'! She doesn't conform to the norm and seems happy enough living life the way she wants to, but you just know that if you scratch away there's something hidden underneath the surface that makes you want to give them a big hug and let them know that life will be ok!

For 15 years she has devoted herself to her work, and her boss! Thinking he is just waiting for the right moment to dump his wife and live the 'happily ever after' life with Sylvia. BUT he doesn't see the world the way she does and the more you witness his behaviour, the more you get the impression that he has just used her over the years and taken advantage of her devotion.

It's only when she sees him in a whole new light that the reality hits her that he's not her knight in shining armour and all she has pinned her hopes on crumbles away. So what does she do with her life now?

As well as her work she has devoted her time helping to helping out at a hedgehog sanctuary with Jonas. He's a wonderful soul who takes great delight in living life simply and just wants to help the hedgehogs! The more time Sylvia spends with him and the sanctuary, the more her eyes are opened as to what she wants out of life and when an old school friend reappears in her life, maybe her life starts to look up again and she sees things a little differently.

I loved the simplicity of this story - it's more about the personalities and life choices that each character makes. Sylvia isn't the most likeable character to begin with - she's quite abrupt in her viewpoints but she has a big dilemma to face when she sees her boss for what he really is and not what she thought he was for all those years. There's a reason for why she is the way she is, and the more she gets stripped back then the more you understand her and things fall into place.

I really enjoyed this story and the journey that you see Sylvia take is a very realistic and poignant one.
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I thought this book was a true reflection of life for a lady who never married and gave herself to making her boss’ life as easy as possible.  I say this as I have worked with a lady like Sylvia who also dedicated her life to her boss with no reward other than hierarchy at work.  I liked the dynamic between Sylvia and Millie and after reading more of the book realised the issue she had with her niece.  Millie’s husband was a character I could not take to but he was fed into the book in the right sort of mischief for want of a better word to make the story more credible – families are families and come in all shapes sizes and dramas.  Jonas was a lovely character and I loved the idea of what he did with his wife’s wedding ring and the hedgehogs need someone like him to survive.  I would like to have know what happens with Sylvia and Neil if anything – a sequel maybe.  I would read this author again without question
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My thanks to the Publishers via NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. I was also sent an uncorrected proof as I am taking part in a Blog tour organised by Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers.

I was more than happy to give this a 5 stars or 10/10.

This gentle tale was demolished in two days. It is an easy read that tells the story of Sylvia a 52 year old University employee, who was besotted and in love with her boss, Professor Lomax also referred to by her as 'Prof'. At the weekends, she loved nothing more than to help out at a local Hedgehog sanctuary.

But, life has a funny way of not working out quite the way we expect it. When a new filly (PhD candidate) on the block appears, it's not long before Sylvia feels her nose being pushed out of joint.

Will Sylvia win her man, the love of her life the Prof or will fate have other plans for her?

I enjoyed this story, at times I felt like banging Sylvia's head against a brick wall as it was quite apparent to the reader that the Prof wasn't that receptive towards Sylvia's feelings. However, you did keep hoping that he would change his ways and his feelings towards her.

The story is told almost in two parts without it being spit as such into parts, the majority of the first 200 pages or so are focused on the here and now, with the latter 140 pages or so being told with more info as to what had happened in the past, this does help in some ways to realise why Sylvia is the way she is.

I felt sorry for Sylvia, who was quite a prickly character and mirrored the 'needlemice' that she helped to look after. I felt that other people had helped to make her the way she was and that if she'd had a different past that she would have been a different person.
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I felt that I had already met Sylvia, I think everyone has, the lady who was going to settle down maybe next year, get married one day and have a family one day but all of a sudden the one days have all become yesterday and time has gone by. Well, Sylvia had waited for years for her boss to make that final move after he had clearly made his feelings known at one of the office Xmas parties. She had pride in his achievements and protected him every day from the riff-raff who tried to make it into his office.
Sylvia was all about what people thought of her even if it wasn't the real her. When a new lady arrives on the scene Sylvia decides to take drastic action and well the story becomes pretty entertaining. I must admit that at times I did have to read just with one eye as I cringed so much. This was pure gold, a super debut.
This is one good feel read that is perfect entertainment at home or on holiday.  I didn't much care for this spiteful spinster, to begin with, but well she did make me laugh. It was just the determination and blinkered serious approach that I giggled at. The lengths she went to but with each page, I thawed and mellowed to this lady and loved her to bits by the end. 
There are some brilliant characters, all readable, predictable and very entertaining, a super uplifting read, beautifully written and perfect title.
I wish to thank NetGalley for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
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Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor is about a prickly 52-year-old woman named Sylvia Penton. She is admin support for a professor at a university, but she has been harbouring a secret crush on him for years.

Little does Sylvia realise that ‘her prof’ is interested in someone else. On discovery of this knowledge Sylvia becomes increasingly desperate.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with my statement that Sylvia is not a likeable character. She is mean, insensitive and self-serving. However, the more we learn about her the easier it is to understand the reasons behind her behaviour and whilst it is still not acceptable it is understandable.

It is obvious to the reader that ‘her prof’ is clearly not interested in her.

Sylvia is quite a lonely character. She has nobody she is close to at work because she is too busy trying to prevent people from disturbing the professor. Sylvia has a sister called Millie who she is as close to as she can be to anyone, but she really does not get on with her brother-in-law or her niece Crystal.

“It’s not Crystal’s fault that I don’t like her. I have tried over the years not to let the past effect my relationship with her the last thing I want is Millie picking up on it, but I know she knows there is a problem there I can’t quite hide my lack of genuine enthusiasm about Crystal’s many and varied achievements over the years. Her first steps, first words, writing her name, passing her ballet exams – the list goes on – and with each occasion the news has been delivered to me like a special present that I am invited to share in the joy of opening. And no matter how hard I have tried, and still try, to look pleased and say the right things, there’s a note of discord in my voice and in my reactions that chills and often kills the mood."

Sylvia volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary because she thinks it makes her seem like a nicer person than she is. The parts of the book talking about hedgehogs and facts surrounding them were fascinating for me because I knew relatively little about them prior to this.

Needlemouse begins with the prof taking her out for lunch for her birthday and this is when we see how truly pitiable her situation is.

“It occurred to me, as we were having coffee, that he hadn’t even asked me one question during the meal or even said ‘happy birthday’ and I felt a surge of annoyance that I immediately squashed down, reminding myself that he was in the midst of an intensely difficult time. Having repositioned myself emotionally towards his well-being, rather than mine, I was able to watch him drink his coffee with renewed affection."

Needlemouse is a lovely little book and very easy to read.
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This was a highly anticipated read and I am so pleased to report that I was not disappointed.  This brilliant book was quirky, side splittingly funny and a total joy to read.

Sylvia is many things; she is ascerbic, self assured and utterly deluded.  She is spiteful and mean-spirited; prickly and unfriendly, critical and pompous.  And yet, Sylvia is also something else; she is devastatingly lonely and just wants to be loved.

Sylvia has fashioned her entire existence around her obscenely unhealthy obsession with her boss, Prof.  She is protective, both personally and professionally, of Prof and guards him jealously; always watching from the sidelines.  In her mind she has conjured him up as an ethereal being, an impossibly flawless person and her infatuation turns her into a becrazed stalker; following him across the continent and surreptitiously spying on him whilst meticulously meddling in his affairs.

Without giving too much away, there is a point in the book where all things come to a head and Sylvia’s life comes crashing down around her ears.  At this point, I was so invested in her evil plans and so swept along by her designs, that I had to put the book down.  I couldn’t bear to see her life in such disarray.  After an epiphany and the realisation that she has become a product of her own making, Sylvia attempts to pick up the pieces of her life, using her work at the hedgehog sanctuary as a coping mechanism. Sadly the path to happiness is still not a smooth one.

Needlemouse is an uplifting feel-good novel which is both melancholy and heartwarming.  The absurdity with which Sylvia rationalises some of her outrageous decisions made me laugh out loud several times, as did her determined dedication to Prof and what she deemed best for him.  She goes to surprisingly great lengths to sabotage Prof’s plans, at times it was rather unsettling and edge-of-the seat stuff!  I really enjoyed Needlemouse and shall sadly miss Sylvia’s caustic tones.

This book is definitely one for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (by Gail Honeyman) and The Cactus (by Sarah Haywood).
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Every so often I like to mix it up a bit and read something outside my usual comfort zone. Something a bit slower paced and more character driven than the usual high octane thrillers which I devour constantly. This was that book for me. We meet Sylvia who lives alone, works for a university professor who she loves unrequitedly, and volunteers at a hedgehog sanctuary. She also looks down her nose at most people, is too overprotective of aforementioned professor and, to be honest, isn't really a nice person. But what has happened to make her like this, was there something? I mean, she has a good relationship with her sister so it isn't all doom and gloom. But then the apple cart is upset. She has a rival for her boss, her relationship with her sister goes off the rails, and even her precious sanctuary's existence is threatened. Like the creatures she adores, she definitely has a prickly side but is it time she stopped rolling herself up in a ball and started to live a little? Even if that means exposing her soft-side...
This was a delightfully quirky read. Yes, it's uncomfortable at times, especially given how unlikable the main character is when we first meet her. I gave up counting the number of times I wanted to give her a good slap. But face value is all we ever see of everyone we meet and, as we all know, often that's just a mask, a defence mechanism, hiding an inner vulnerability, a soft centre, a person who just wants to be loved. A bit childlike and definitely naive. But, by the end of the book, when a lot of water has passed under the bridge, when certain truths have come to light and the whole Sylvia has been exposed. Well, I guess I started to understood her a whole lot more. I still don't think we'll be best friends any time soon but there's definitely a newfound respect. Basically, in a nutshell, it's pretty much Sylvia's coming of age book.
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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*I received a ebook copy of this novel for free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This novel was a perfect example of why it sometimes pays to keep reading even when you're not sure you like the novel. I began this not knowing what to think but as the plot progressed I was captivated, and come the ending full of hope.

I grew to like Sylvia as I learned more and more about her past, her fears and her hopes. There were times I found her frustrating, but that was also part of what makes her unique. This novel offers you the chance to watch a character flourish and grow, offering the reader a chance to feel inspired by the chances she faces.

I loved the little bits of hedgehog information spread thought this novel, for me they helped this novel stand out.

The plot was well paced, I found myself woundering what could happen next at many parts and I was pleasently surprised at what did.

Overall I would recommend this novel to fans of fiction with heartwarming moments but also serious ones too. This novel does a good job of balancing life's difficulties with life's triumphs, reminding us all to hold on for the things to come.
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Oh what a Lovely Book! I discovered this from reading a review in my feed written by my GR friend Paromjit, who has great taste as well as being one of the most eloquent reviewers on GoodReads. Not my usual cup of tea, but the premise appealed to me, and I have very much enjoyed some of the similarly themed books featuring unconventional protagonists that have appeared in recent years, like Eleanor Oliphant & Ove. 

I also do happen to like hedgehogs, which is faintly frowned upon here in NZ where they are an introduced species,  and while not demonised like possums, rats and stoats, they do compete with native birds for food and eat their eggs. Unfortunately we mostly only see them dead on the road, but I have twice rescued sick hogs and was thankful to discover there is a network of people across the country who will take them in and restore them to health then freedom. I wish we could send them back to England where they belong, and would be appreciated, but reading here that the population has dropped from 35 to about one million tells me they probably have a better chance of surviving here. Anyway, I’m digressing, it’s late at night but I just had to finish this wonderful moving debut novel.

Sylvia is a 52 year old spinster, who has been in love with her boss, Carl, a professor of Educational Psychology at a London university for 15 years, patiently waiting for him to leave his wife so they can finally be together. Unfortunately her feelings are completely unrequited, bordering on delusional, and when he starts showing too much interest in a glamorous new PhD student, Sylvia is determined to protect him, as she sees it, by fair means or foul. She has few friends, and has always lived in the shadow of her vivacious extroverted younger sister Millie, and domineering 80 year old mother.
When the sisters fall out over the reveal of an old secret, Sylvia has only Jonas, a kindly old man who runs a hedgehog sanctuary that she volunteers at, mainly to make herself seem nicer than she is, to turn to. As the year turns, will Sylvia learn to uncurl from her protective ball and open herself up to friendship? 

For most of the first half of this book at least, Sylvia is pretty unlikeable, as she writes her diary entries, detailing her bitchy commentary about everyone except her beloved Prof, gleefully plotting to keep her rival away from him. She and her brother-in-law, Kamal, can’t stand each other and she’s even distant from her teenage niece, the mopy Crystal. As we learn more about her past, however, you can’t help but feel a growing sympathy for her desperate loneliness, so that when she finally opens her eyes and reaches out, I found myself cheering her on. I loved the ending, which was both realistic and optimistic without being schmaltzy or too predictable.

The snippets of information about hedgehogs added to my enjoyment of this heartwarming story, except for hearing that they used to be cooked in clay and considered a delicacy in some countries or killed by witch-hunters in the Middle Ages. There are helpful hints on how to help them survive, and what to do if you find one - if they’re out during the day it means they’re sick and need help. Keep them warm, feed them cat or dog food and contact a rescue centre.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc, which allowed me to give an honest review. Needle Mouse is published on 27.06.19.
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This is a delightful tale of a spiky woman learning to soften  her attitude towards the world, while the reader also learns slowly why she became spiky in the first place. The main character is set in her ways, in a way which is very reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant - this novel is highly recommended for fans of that book! 

My only complaint would be that the resolutions came too easily - things happen TO this character instead of her making them happen herself. But all in all it was very entertaining, engrossing and heart warming.
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When I first started to read this book I really started to have a few reservations about it. As I felt that the main character (Sylvia) was living in her own delusional world. Where she is so infatuated with her boss that she was reading far more in to their work relationship than what was really going on. It made me feel as though I wanted to go up to her and shake some scene in to her.

The more I got into the book the more I started to understand Sylvia and her situation and why she was this way. Like it says on the cover of the book she needed to come out of hibernation.

I also enjoyed “The Hedgehog Year” by Jonas Entwistle, which will become clearer as to why there so many references to Hedgehogs the more you read the book.

Sylvia is living in her own delusional world. She is a PA for Professor Carl Lomax at the University (Prof as she likes to call him). She takes pride in thinking she knows everything about him and how he likes everything, as well as shielding him from students or anyone one else who just happens to turn up in his office without an appointment. Sylvia comes across as a battle axe where her prof is concerned thinking that she knows whats best for him.

Sylvia spends most of her time out of the work place fantasising about her Prof leaving his wife for her and for them to walk off in to the sunset together. However after Sylvia is dismissed from her job, due to misconduct she is at a huge loss, and maybe she doesn’t know Prof like she thought she did.

Also her relationship with her sister and husband has gone from being strained to Sylvia not existing. But Sylvia ends up with an allies in her niece Crystal and the more time they spend together the more she realises Crystal is more like her than her loud and flamboyant mother.

So this just leaves Sylvia with her volunteering at the hedgehog sanctuary helping Jonas Entwistle to carrying on with the hedgehog sanctuary that his wife started years ago and it’s Jonas’ way of keeping his wife alive.

With Sylvia loosing her job is this is the turning point in her life where she slowly starts to finally live her life instead of hibernating. She is very much like a hedgehog prickly on the outside but soft and vulnerable in the middle.

I really enjoyed this book it’s not like most books out there, and it about a lonely woman in her 50’s who really isn’t living a full life.
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