The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

What a delightful book this is! It is the perfect book to immerse yourself in right now… so what’s it about?

It’s 1939 and the Natural History Museum are taking every precaution to ensure the longevity and safety of their collection during the war, this requires the exhibits to be shipped out of London to other locations, one of them being Lockwood Manor.

Hetty Cartwright is now in charge of a rather large collection, and the pressure is on her shoulders to keep the animals safe in an environment that isn’t climate controlled, attracts other wildlife and is constantly invaded by people that have a complete disregard for the mammals. One of them being Lord Lockwood, whom whilst appearing serious about the cause in his correspondence, seems to have changed his view when the animals arrive and take over many of his rooms. He continues to disregard the museum rooms being private, throwing elaborate parties that end with the inevitable drunken foolery involving the animals and is unconcerned when animals continue to go missing. Hetty fears she will lose her job, if any more animals disappear or become damaged, but for Lord Lockwood, it’s just a game. For she is a woman, and he is a man.

Healey reminds us throughout this book the challenges women have faced throughout history when in the workforce, particularly zoning in on the unfair treatment of women stepping up during the war and the fear felt within these women that job security would vanish when the men returned from war.

Other than Hetty, there’s another key female character within this story and that’s Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s daughter. Her chapters add a darker depth to this tale and home in on the inner turmoil she suffers everyday. At first I wasn’t sure how key her troubles were to the overall plot, but as the story developed I was shocked. Whilst I started off by saying this is a delightful book, I should add it’s not all daisies and roses, in fact there’s a certain thriller flare to the second half of the book, that takes you on a rollercoaster journey of twists and reveals – I was hooked.

The complex dynamics of the family and staff within Lockwood Manor had my mind working on overtime to discover who was trustworthy and who was not. Healey’s strong characterisation is the icing on the cake for this book, it amplifies this incredible story and makes it unforgettable.

Mesmerising, insightful and at times wonderfully tender. I couldn’t not be enthralled by this debut novel.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor is out now in hardback and eBook versions from Mantle Books.

Until next time, stay safe, Chloé x

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