Book Review

Review: Needlemouse – Jane O’Connor

Sylvia has been in waiting for some time. Waiting for Prof to notice her, waiting for something to happen, waiting for her life to begin. She takes small pleasures at his touch, his attentions, but when his new and attractive PhD student arrives, Sylvia realises she will have to take matters into her own hands if she is going to keep Prof safe. Not to mention that she has a few secrets of her own, that are eating her up inside …

I seem to have picked up quite a few of these style of books recently – Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Cactus and The Other Half of Augusta Hope. Even though much of the stories seem to be the same (or at least the same theme – mature woman learns to change and find some kind of redemption and personal growth), I still end up really enjoying them.

Needlemouse is no different – the title is perfect for the story and the character of Sylvia (not to mention being a super-cute translation of ‘hedgehog’ from Japanese). The whole ‘hedgehog personality’ became a bit laboured in places – the title is there, you don’t need to refer to her as prickly again! – but it still worked well overall. I thought the regular volunteering at a hedgehog sanctuary might also quickly become tiresome, but O’Connor managed to ensure that this wasn’t the focus of the whole novel.

Overall, this was a light and easy read – with some really cringey and uncomfortable moments. Thankfully, these continue to help the main character grow and, also thankfully, Sylvia’s voice gradually develops across the story. Her own voice may put some readers off to start with, but it does change and grow. She is initially vindictive, silly and uncomfortably anxious, but learns to find her own self.

Without spoiling it, I’m also satisfied with the ending – I was worried it might go one way (and meet the stereotype for this kind of novel) but I was pleasantly surprised instead.

I’ve given this book a warm 4 stars – thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for an ARC.


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