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…
Published by Orion June 27th 2019
~ Review ~
Japanese term for hedgehog, a small nocturnal mammal with a spiny coat and short legs, able to roll itself into a ball for defence.
There were two things about this book that caught my eye. First all … NEEDLEMOUSE!!! Isn’t that just the best name ever! Hedgehogs will now be forever known as Needlemouses in my house. I love it!
Secondly, I kind of relate to the description of the Needlemouse. I’m a bit prickly and solitary but it’s a defence mechanism. And while I’m nowhere near as spiky as main character, Sylvia, I did relate to some aspects of her. Though NOT the stalkery aspect I hasten to add!!
Sylvia is a woman in her fifties, bitter with disappointments at her life, jealous of those who have what she doesn’t and critical and negative as a defence mechanism. But there’s one light in her life, her boss – Professor Carl Lomax, or Prof as she affectionately calls him. She’s sure, after fifteen years of loyalty, their relationship is about to take a step from working to romantic. If only she could get rid of the bubbly and attractive student who’s demanding lots of his time right now.
I absolutely adored Sylvia. What a fantastic character she is, with a mix of completely awful and spitefulness and raw, painful vulnerability. Although utterly disposable and disagreeable at times, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her and like her too This woman is layered and complex, an absolute credit to the author for creating her so wholly.
There’s plenty of toe-curling and funny moments, as Sylvia obsessess over Prof, but there’s a serious side too and this book tackles the issues of women in middle age such as dissatisfaction, divorce, loneliness, identity issues, menopause, aging parents and many other subtle things. It’s an age group that’s under or poorly represented in fiction, and as someone who is heading there myself and doesn’t always want to read about twenty somethings, I really appreciated this.
Needlemouse has been recommended for those who’ve enjoyed books such as Eleanor Oliphant, and I think that’s fair. Sylvia is an oddball, but understanding her was both emotional and fascinating… at times hilarious! I hoped for a happier ending for her, but of course you’re going to have to read it yourself to find out if she gets it. I really loved this book and recommend it heartily!
(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publisher)