Needlemouse is out this week, or at least, so it says in my Netgalley list. Goodreads says it’s been out since April. Since the publishers were kind enough to send me an ARC via NetGalley I’m sticking to what it says there.
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…
A quirky, charming uplifting novel perfect for fans of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Sarah Haywood’s The Cactus. The feelgood bestseller about unrequited love, loneliness and the redemptive qualities of hedgehogs featuring the most unlikely heroine of 2019. [goodreads]
This is a book of two halves, as the blurb suggests. The dreadful secret of Sylvia’s love-obsession with ‘Prof’, takes most of the first half. For any introverts around, it can be uncomfortable reading. Here’s someone they might recognise, keeping all her secrets to herself, and agonising over the behaviour of her more extrovert companions. I recognised several people, both friends and myself.
It is a testament to Jane O’Connor’s writing that Sylvia and her friends are so aptly captured on paper. The writing flows well, and the plot descends into a quagmire of Sylvia’s making with an inevitability born of human failings.
But then…. she wakes up, as the blurb says. Part of the awakening is brought upon herself, and part is imposed upon her. After that, she reassesses her life and we find out all about Sylvia’s past.
This is where I felt betrayed. The author has chosen to make Sylvia a product of severe trauma, making out that her introversion is caused by her troubled past, her family and her relationships. If readers believe Ms O’Connor, every introvert will now be poked and prodded by his or her extrovert friends to find what horrors lurk in their past to make them turn out this way.
I take violent exception to this. Just let introverts alone, let them be themselves. You might as well write a novel about a person of colour turning out not to be of colour after all. They just fell in a vat of something when they were a baby. Seriously. This is the best comparison I can make with what Ms O’Connor is alleging.
It may be a cause of Sylvia’s behaviour, but don’t paint her like thousands of other people, people we know well in our day to day lives, and then say it was the events of their past that made her that way, and that eventually she’ll find happiness.
In fact, the hedgehog sanctuary, and many other animal sanctuaries are also sanctuaries for us. Traumatised or natural-born introverts.
In case you wondered, ‘needlemouse’ is the translation of the Japanese for hedgehog. And there are charming excerpts of hedgehog natural history at the change of each season.
It may be quirky and charming, but it’s also irritating, uncomfortable and patronises the perfectly reasonable trait of introversion. Extroverts will love it. Hedgehogs should play a much larger part in it, to my mind.NEEDLEMOUSE by Jane O'Connor 'quirky and charming; also irritating, uncomfortable and patronises introversion. Hedgehogs should take a larger role' #netgalley #needlemouse Click To Tweet