THE PLOT: The Animals of Lockwood Manor is set in WWII and features Hetty, an assistant director of London’s Natural History Museum, who is tasked with evacuating the mammal collection. An unmarried woman, Hetty is determined to make a success of the evacuation so she can prove the value of women in the workplace. But on arrival at Lockwood Manor, the grand country house selected to store the animals, Hetty realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Lord Lockwood is patronizing, the servants are surly, and she can’t escape the rumours that Lockwood is haunted. Fortunately, there’s help from Lord Lockwood’s daughter, Lucy. But when the animals begin to go missing, Hetty is embroiled in a bigger mystery than she imagined.
RATING: The Animals at Lockwood Manor is a gripping tale, with a wonderful twist. However, giving this novel a star rating was very tricky. Did I enjoy it immensely? Yes. Did it set my world on fire? No. So I’ve settled on 4 stars because, despite temptation, it would be far too pedantic for me to give it 3.75. IMO, the original premise and detailed setting bumped up the star rating. I feel like I can truly envision Lockwood Manor with the animals on display and the dinner party scene plays like a film in my mind, which demonstrates the skill of the author (Jane Healey).
GOOD BITS: Earnest and straightforward, Hetty is a character after my heart. I loved how her personality seeped into all her interactions, from classifying people as animals to cataloguing their descriptions as if they were a zoological specimen. Although some people were relieved at the emotive chapters from Lucy’s point of view, I preferred the sparse, clear sections narrated by Hetty.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: By the end of the novel, I sort of wanted Lucy to ‘buck up’ and get over it. Her constant terror was understandable but it felt tedious. Also, I don’t think we ever found out if Hetty’s mother replied to her letter. It’s a very small detail but I felt this storyline was unresolved.
OVERALL: I’d recommend The Animals at Lockwood Manor if you’re looking for historical fiction with a little bit of mystery. There seems to be a very interesting underlying theme of childhood trauma, signified by both Hetty and Lucy’s relationships with their parents. It’s a very strong debut by Jane Healey and though I probably won’t re-read this novel I look forward to seeing what she writes next.