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The Animals at Lockwood Manor

door Jane Healey

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10910187,697 (3.61)4
"A debut novel for fans of Sarah Perry and Kate Morton: when a young woman is tasked with safeguarding a natural history collection as it is spirited out of London during World War II, she discovers her new manor home is a place of secrets and terror instead of protection"--

Geen.

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As soon as I read the premise of ‘The Animals at Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey, I was intrigued. It is 1939, war is declared, and a decision is taken to move the exhibits from the Natural History Museum to safety. Hetty Cartwright is charged with moving the mammal collection to a country house where they, and she, will stay for the duration of the war.
Lockwood Manor is one of those atmospheric houses in literature that will stay with you after you read it. Crumbling, dusty and dirty, it has rats and secret rooms, ghost stories and scandal. It is an extra character in this story and in fact has a clearer presence than some of the peripheral characters who perhaps could have been deleted. Hetty arrives with her cargo of taxidermy animals in display cases plus catalogues and samples to find a mixed welcome from the manor’s servants who see the new arrivals as extra work. The irascible lord of the manor welcomes them then disappears, he is seen briefly at mealtimes and when ushering his latest girlfriend from the house. At first Hetty, charged with the care of the mammals, is kept busy arranging, cleaning and organising. Then she finds an ally in the lord’s daughter, Lucy, who though mentally fragile, finds peace amongst the animals. Hetty and Lucy, with their vulnerabilities and lack of confidence, have almost inter-changeable voices.
Then Hetty hears noises at night and starts to find animals not in their correct place in the morning. So when a case of hummingbirds is opened and the tiny stuffed treasures disappear, it becomes clear that something sinister lurks in the house. Is it a ghost, a mischief maker or a burglar? The odious Lord Lockwood and the equally unlikeable housekeeper are dismissive of Hetty’s fears, adding to her feeling of incompetence. This is part ghost mystery, part love affair, part family history. Hetty suspects everyone, first of mischief but she soon comes to realise it is something altogether more dangerous. Feeling vulnerable in her own job and not wanting to admit she can’t cope, she vascillates over writing to her boss in London. The delay is costly.
I remained conflicted about this book to the end. The clever idea is hindered by a slow pace and repetitive description, there are many beautiful passages which do not add to the plot. The final quarter raced along well enough though I still skipped some paragraphs, but I was left feeling I had read a nineteenth century Gothic story set in the Victorian era not World War Two. The absence of war from Lockwood Manor is such that the story might have been set at another time, the wartime setting is wasted. The introduction of a voice from outside the house would rectify this omission, perhaps from someone at the museum, adding conflict, moving the plot along and strengthening the feeling that Lockwood Manor exists in an abnormal bubble.
Read it for the descriptions of the house, the brooding atmosphere and for the way Hetty likens everyone she meets to an animal. ‘Lucy had been called a dove by her father but, as a mammal lover, I thought that she rather reminded me of a cat somehow, in her glamour and warm smiles’.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jun 22, 2020 |
I loved this the way I love a Sarah Waters novel. Gothic and tense and SO tightly written, it unfolded so precisely and beautifully. Perfection. ( )
  ablachly | May 18, 2020 |
''Lockwood had too many empty rooms. They sat there, hushed and gaping, waiting for my mind to fill them with horrors - spectres and shadows and strange creeping creatures. And sometimes what was already there was frightening enough: empty chairs; the hulk of a hollow wardrobe; a painting that slid off the wall on its own accord and shattered on the floor; the billowing of a curtain in a stray gust of wind; a light bulb that flickered like a message from the beyond. Empty rooms hold the possibility of people lurking inside them - truants, intruders, spirits.''

When we think of the ones that must be protected during a war, our mind always turns to human beings and understandably so. But what bout the treasures kept within the walls of our museums, the evidence of the human's evolution, the proof that we aren't only bringers of destruction but also able to create wonders? Hetty's duty is exactly that. She needs to find a shelter for the collection of mammals belonging to the Natural History Museum, as the Second World War is swiftly approaching Britain. She cannot know that Lockwood Manor hides sins of the past, terrible anger, injustice and corruption. Between a devil woman dressed in white, disappearances and a very real Satan, Hetty and Lucy need to find a way of those who try to dictate their lives.

Welcome to one of the finest novels of the decade...

''The house seemed to encourage wandering, hunting - the long corridor of its first floor, with the wall sconces leading you forward, the tall windows, the neat condition of each room that a dozen servants tended to; the hidden service stairs waiting to be found; the narrow warren of the servants' floor; and above all the vacuum of life, the absence of people in the rooms that had been so lovingly prepared for them.''

There is a long, long British tradition of haunting stories set in foreboding manors. Think of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Rebecca. Stories where the House walks side-by-side with the characters, ruling their fate. In Jane Healey's outstanding novel, this concept comes to life to perfection. Lockwood -the name evident of its mystery and darkness- isn't just a setting. It is the driving force behind all actions. Its closed doors and dark curtains, its silent corridors reflect the secrets and the oppression that permeate its walls. The spectres that may or may not haunt the Manor are a mirror of the choices and their repercussions once we allow others to take over our lives. I loved the way Healey links the games of our childhood to the haunting element. How most of them are based on a risky, often violent, premise. From hiding to chasing, to being blindfolded or unwittingly struck by a companion. What is this primal tendency? What does it reflect, I wonder?

But do not think this is just a story about a mysterious manor. No. In Hetty and Lucy, Jane Healey has created two excellent characters. Both at a crossroads, both struck by the lack of a mother in one way or another, both trying to overcome the norms of being ''proper ladies'', determined to swim against the current on so many levels. In the thoughts of the two young women and in their relationship, we can see the very notion of resilience, determination, and persistence, regardless of the cost. I would be frightfully negligent if I didn't mention the crucial and very mysterious role played by Lucy's mother, a character that deserves her own novel...

Extremely atmospheric, exquisitely written prose, excellent dialogue, brilliantly depicted themes, a wonderful continuation of the Gothic Manor sub-genre. A beautiful, beautiful novel!

''If there was a spirit in this house, it was me; if there was a haunting, it was my own.''

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Apr 18, 2020 |
At its core, "The Animals at Lockwood Manor" is a feminist and queer love story about a museum curator and an heiress. Its overarching theme is that of the hunter and the hunted, and it becomes apparent quickly that it's not only describing people and animals, but the way men treat women; something to be domineered and kept.

This is obvious in the way Lucy's father treated her mother when she was alive, and less obvious with how he treats Lucy herself. He acts the concerned father but keeps his daughter as more of a trophy.

I loved Hetty and Lucy and the slow progression of their relationship.

Every other character in this book, however, is pretty much irredeemable. Even the character we're meant to sympathize with in the end...I personally could not. Not after everything she did.

Overall, I really liked The Animals at Lockwood Manor. I was drawn in quickly from the start and I finished it in a couple of days.

*ARC received from BookishFirst ( )
  alliepascal | Apr 6, 2020 |
Atmospheric gothic tale of a female musuem curator sent to an English country estate as WWII looms to watch over the mammal collection of her institution. Who and what she encounters there are not what she expected. Healey shows grand potential for storytelling in her debut. ( )
  Perednia | Mar 16, 2020 |
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"A debut novel for fans of Sarah Perry and Kate Morton: when a young woman is tasked with safeguarding a natural history collection as it is spirited out of London during World War II, she discovers her new manor home is a place of secrets and terror instead of protection"--

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