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aka Hedgehog

Needlemouse Book Cover Needlemouse
Jane O'Connor
women's literature
Ebury Digital
(1 May 2019)

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…

(actually a hog – a pig relative)

Whilst I quite liked this rather sweet novel about obsession and its consequences – and how stalking can come about – I wish stories about universities were a little more realistic.

Unless ‘her’ Professor was working in an Oxbridge university or was a ‘name’ and thus bought in for prestige, the whole concept of a personal administrator has long gone. Universities just can’t afford them. Nor can they afford Professors who sit around their offices all day writing without producing. It would be nice – but generally speaking, Professors are busy on committees, holding seminars, seeing multiple research students, and networking, as well as lecturing. Administrative staff are usually not required to submit students’ work to any conference – and a conference would require several months notice of submission due to the peer reviewed process it would need to go through. Sometimes they will book flights and accommodation but often these days, staff do this themselves and then get reimbursed.

So a lovely view of what university life must have been like some 20-30 years ago perhaps?

That said, I liked the hedgehog component. It was the saviour of the story really – they really are blameless creatures who are totally dumb, and sanctuaries deserve all the support they can obtain. We once found a nest of babies in our greenhouse. The mother had gone in there, late in the year and had got herself killed by getting tangled in support wires for tomatoes. The babies were too small for hibernation and we took them to Tiddlewinkles and gave a generous donation for their care.

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