Winner of the HWA Debut Crown Award 2020
Some secrets are unspoken. Others are unspeakable . . .
August 1939. As the Second World War looms, thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s famous collection of mammals. But once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for . . .
Protecting her priceless animals from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is hard enough, but when a series of mysterious events occur, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the gothic mansion.
As her fears build, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?
Ostensibly about the move of the mammal section of the museum’s collection to Lockwood Manor at the onset of World War II. Which is an interesting fact that the author has based the book around. (See link below)
There is a spooky element to the story, a thread that runs through the book and which gradually gives the background to the daughter, Lady Lucy Lockwood, of the house’s state of mind and why she has such a fidelity to her father, Major Lord Lockwood.
Furthermore, strange things happen to the collection which strikes up a bond between her and the museum’s representative, Miss Hettie Cartwright, at Lockwood. Their friendship deepens and as all of this happens we learn about the darker side of the Major.
This is not a thrill seeking, haunted house story that it seems some readers expected but a story of breaking free from pasts that have made life difficult. For Lucy it is an atmospherically dark exploration of what was really happening in her childhood. For Hettie dealing with her status at work amongst men who make her feel inadequate and a failure simply because she is a woman and that her inability to stand up to this was likely made possible by her mother’s attitude and their relationship.
It is the story of the growing bond between the two main characters that, for me, stands out. Along with what transpires regarding the Major. In a time when some women found a brief freedom from the expectation of marriage and running a house through various war work it could still be very difficult to be a woman pursuing a career. Even more so a woman coming to terms with and wanting a relationship that could, would have dire consequences in work, in society and with family. This is a love story which is set in unusual circumstances and does not always go smoothly. It is also a subtly dark tale of manipulation and power in relationships.
The Animals of Lockwood Manor offers readers a variety of threads to enjoy the different aspects of the book, it has characters that are not all likeable, the pace can be slow but it has a tension at times that is quite uncomfortable. The more I read the more I enjoyed this rather strange but engaging story.
Thanks: Many thanks to the publisher Mantle for an eCopy of The Animals of Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey for review. I have also purchased the eBook.
This is my second book for 20 Books of Summer Cathy from 746Books is the mastermind and host behind this annual event.
It’s optional to pick 10, 15 or 20 books. It runs from 1 June to 1 September and it’s a very easy going challenge which is why I like it so much.
Published: Mantle (PanMacMillan) – 5 March 2020
At war: The Natural History Museum
Author: Jane Healey studied English Literature at Warwick University. She has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2013, the Costa Short Story Award 2014, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2016 and the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme 2017. The Animals at Lockwood Manor is her first novel. She lives in Edinburgh.
The Animals of Lockwood Manor | The Orphelia Girls (Mantle, 22 July 2021)
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