Publication Date: 5th March 2020
You lot know that I love me some dark, gothic historical fiction. All the better if there are strange goings on in a large spooky Manor House.
When I read about The Animals At Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey it immediately went on to my Most Anticipated Books Of 2020 list.
When this proof arrived from Mantle it was absolutely beautifully packaged. It came with a specimen tag and a little key (I LOVE a tiny little key!). But perhaps most interestingly of all was the letter from the author describing how she came about the idea for the book when she was researching the history of London’s Natural History Museum and discovered that during the war, museum collections were evacuated to country manor houses to keep them safe.
I found myself absolutely fascinated with this and did a bit of googling to read more. I’ve said this before in previous reviews but I do enjoy fictional works that are rooted in some way in fact.
August 1939 and Hetty Cartwright who works at The Natural History Museum has been given the job of evacuating the museum’s mammal collection. Not an easy task when dealing with large exhibits and small delicate collections. Hetty is eager to prove that she is up to the task since she has made some mistakes during her time at the museum and wants to impress her superiors.
She cares so much about the exhibits and has them painstakingly moved to Lockwood Manor under her inscrutable eye.
Lockwood Manor is the home of Lord Lockwood and his daughter Lucy. His wife and Lucy’s mother had unfortunately died following an accident on the estate. Hetty soon begins to realise that Lord Lockwood is a force to be reckoned with and living in his home will not be plain sailing.
However, Hetty is immediately drawn to Lucy and they quickly form a very strong bond.
When some of the exhibits start to move, become damaged or even disappear completely, Hetty begins to wonder just what kind of a place she has brought her precious collection to.
There is a fabulous ghostly vibe about this book. Lucy is clearly troubled in lots of ways due to her mothers untimely death but also because her mother was not the most stable of women prior to her death.
Lucy has disturbing dreams and it isn’t long before Hetty herself is getting caught up in Lucy’s fears and apprehensions whilst battling Lord Lockwood to keep her animals safe.
There are rumours and whispers abound amongst the Manor’s servants which lend an air of apprehension to the story.
What is so special about this book is Jane Healey’s beautifully descriptive writing style. She brings to life perfectly Lockwood Manor in the readers minds eye which helps to set you firmly in the gothic and insidious atmosphere. Her characters are multifaceted and Hetty is one of my favourite female protagonists of recent years. She is strong and outspoken but also wears her heart firmly on her sleeve. She feels deeply and loves hard.
This book is steeped in atmosphere, expertly researched and is a perfect example of unsettling historical fiction which as you know is right up my street!
With themes of sexuality, grief, mental health, love and loss, The Animals Of Lockwood Manor is a multi-layered story set against the back drop of WW2.
I can not recommend this book highly enough.
Thank you so much to Mantle for my copy for review.
See you soon
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx