Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.
Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.
As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly 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?
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.81 out of 5
5th March 2020 by Mantle aka TODAY!
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’m actually going to keep this review relatively brief because sadly I don’t have a lot to say about The Animals at Lockwood Manor. It’s not a story without its beautiful gems but for me there was an awful lot of soil to dig through to get to them.
First off, this is a well written book and I haven’t a gripe about the writing style at all.
Jane Healey is quite clearly a talented writer with a knack for description especially when conveying a decaying old manor desperately clung onto by the obnoxious and snobbish elite (who were also exquisitely portrayed).
The writing and the relationship between Hetty and Lucy (both characters I enjoyed) were the saving grace for me and I thought that the slow and gentle build of their relationship from friendship to romance was sensitively portrayed considering the time frame the story was set in and the difference in their social class.
It was also a welcome change for me to read a historical novel set in a period other than Victorian times and the 1940’s gives ample opportunity to explore a range of themes. It’s a time a change with the second world war in force and this story explores women’s autonomy in a changing world and yet how society still wants to retain a sense of what’s ‘traditional.’
Those were the gems.
What didn’t win me over was the story and pacing. For the first quarter I was engrossed and then, when the story was approaching the halfway mark, I realised that nothing much was happening.
We had the burgeoning relationship between Hetty and Lucy, rumours of ghosts and the irritating behaviour of Lord Lockwood who was pantomiming his villainy so hard he may as well have twirled his moustache.
The ‘exciting’ things happening i.e. the animals being moved around at night or disappearing was wrapped up by the halfway point.
Hetty was pre-occupied quite strongly with the animal collection from the museum which yes, is fitting with her character but it meant we received lengthy descriptions of the animals in their cases and the pest removal treatment Hetty was performing.
However well written those descriptions were, I didn’t need it. The story didn’t need it.
These long days at the manor were interspersed with Lucy’s diary entries where she would reminisce on the history of the manor, her childhood and current events. While I understood that these were building a picture of Lucy and the sinister past events of the manor, they read a bit like an over-dramatic Carrie Bradshaw was writing them.
Sadly for me there wasn’t much in the way of and the pace was so slow I found it glacial. There was a lot of foreshadowing that didn’t go anywhere and then the reveals at the end hardly led to an ‘ah ha!’ moment. Either because it was so obvious you saw the ‘twists’ coming or they were so poorly laid down that there was no successful foreshadowing at all.
The Animals at Lockwood Manor wasn’t for me unfortunately but this may be your thing if you love a slow burn.