A terrible secret lies buried at the heart of this house.
As the world goes to war, Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor, to take up her new post for the duration of the war, as safekeeper of the natural history museum’s most treasured animal collection, recently evacuated from London.
Yet life at the manor proves challenging for Hetty, who faces the near constant task of protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants, and it seems that every inhabitant has something to hide, not least Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful yet haunted daughter.
But when some of the animals start to go missing, Hetty begins to suspect that someone, or something, is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house . . .
Amongst the rumours of ghosts and curses, what else is Lockwood Manor hiding?
Part love story, part mystery, The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey is a gripping and atmospheric tale of family madness, long-buried secrets and hidden desires.
Publication date: 5th March 2020
*I was sent a kindle edition of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
I read The Animals of Lockwood Manor over a few days but trust me, I definitely wanted to read it every waking moment and did not want to put it down! I was utterly engaged and entranced by this dark tale of hidden family secrets set against the backdrop of the second World War and the rich country estate of Lockwood Manor. This book was reminiscent of all the best parts of my favourite classic novels, which I thoroughly enjoyed. For instance; the earnest protagonist is akin to Jane Eyre, the gothic setting and talk of ghosts and madness to Wuthering Heights. I’m not sure whether this is intentional but either way, I enjoyed reading a story which felt familiar but also entirely unique in it’s execution.
The novel is told through the perspectives of two characters; Hetty Cartwright and Lucy Lockwood. I liked both of them equally and enjoyed both their stories as they each offered different points of view and answers to the mysteries plaguing Lockwood Manor. Hetty is a deeply relatable character, we read as she suffers from anxiety and finds ways to overcome it. She is an intelligent woman who has a passion for the museum and it’s diverse collection of animals and is so capable but isn’t taken seriously due to the fact that she is a woman. Lucy on the other hand is a beautiful and rich heiress who is haunted by her past. Lucy suffers from terrible nightmares surrounding a mysterious room, and a lady in white who roams the halls of Lockwood…is she just imagining things?
I believe the writing style was genuinely impressive for a debut novel and there are some truly beautiful passages. Jane Healey creates such a dark and atmospheric tale and her descriptions of the imposing manor as well as the animals themselves creates such an immersive story which is intriguing and engaging. Stuffed animals are strange at the best of times but especially when there’s talk of ghosts, it just adds to the creepiness!
I thoroughly enjoyed how the mystery developed and everything was explained. For me it was pretty much the perfect level of suspense and tension as the truth was slowly revealed to the reader. The whole time you’re left wondering whether Lockwood Manor really is haunted or whether there’s an altogether more human cause to the strange occurrences. There are a whole host of characters from the egotistical Lord Lockwood, to the stern housekeeper as well as Lord Lockwoods jilted lover, Mary and the household staff who are all hiding their own secrets. All of these characters aid in heightening the tension and sense of foreboding.
As well as the mystery elements, I also enjoyed the budding romance explored within the novel and how the relationship developed in a realistic and touching way. The author doesn’t gloss over the challenges the characters face but finds a way to allow them to find happiness and it was a pleasant change in comparison to the way queer characters are often treated in fiction.
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Animals at Lockwood Manor to readers who enjoy the classics as well as dark or gothic mystery novels. This was such a great debut novel and I’m definitely going to be looking out for more of Jane Healeys’ writing in the future, she is definitely an author to watch out for!
Until next time,