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Tuesday 18 January 2022

Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor

A story about a single middle-aged woman with an unrequited love for her boss isn't particularly original, but this is a well-told, well-written (debut) novel. I wasn't particularly enamoured by the protagonist, Sylvia, at the start…her boss obsession makes her an unpleasant, scheming person, one for whom you feel absolutely no sympathy or compassion. But O'Connor rather skilfully has you rooting for her towards the end. Bad decisions, misunderstandings and disappointments have moulded Sylvia and become her undoing. But her niece, old Jonas, an old boyfriend and…hedgehogs (or'll find out at the end!) transform her into quite a different, less-blinkered, nicer person.

There are some wonderful and wide-ranging characters, such as Jonas (who runs the hedgehog sanctuary), and the flamboyant Millie (Sylvia's sister). It's a heart-warming and uplifting story, written articulately and sensitively.

I would have given this five stars, but I couldn't overlook the tautologising nodding of heads, the 'leaving Lola and I (for heaven's sake '…and me'!), the 'lay low' (it's 'lie low'), and O'Connor should be aware that the proof is not in the pudding, it's in the eating of the pudding! I'm slightly alarmed that a primary (ex)teacher would blunder like this. And equally alarmed that an editor didn't pick these up.

But for that…a charming, entertaining and enjoyable debut novel. I hope there's more to come from this promising author.

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