It is August 1939 and Europe is on the brink of war. Hetty Cartwright has been tasked with moving the precious exhibits from the Natural History Museum in London to a safer more secluded country house for the duration of the hostilities. Evacuated to Lockwood Manor along with her charges the move to the countryside is daunting. With the senior curators drafted into the army Hetty finds herself responsible for the collection and going to battle with the insufferable Major Lockwood who seems to treat it as his own personal collection.
The Animals of Lockwood Manor is an atmospheric gothic novel that meanders through the pages of the book. Slow paced, it matches exactly the isolation and remoteness felt by Hetty in her isolation. There is little in the way of company. Just the boorish General and his fragile daughter Lucy. A small collection of below stairs staff are left at the house and they don’t encourage Hetty to mix with them at all.
As time passes some of the items in the collection begin to mysteriously go astray and others are damaged but no-one can understand how or why. Is it the mysterious lady in white, the reputed ghost of the manor, or is there a less ethereal force out to get Hetty and the precious exhibits.
Lucy is a complicated character, torn between the established social norms of the day and sudden descents into mental instability. Her growing friendship with Hetty is a highlight of the story but even that seems to struggle with the direction that it is taking. Taking a long time to get nowhere fast at times this isn’t always the most satisfying of stories but nevertheless it was enough to keep me reading and to find out exactly who or what was behind all of the strange events.
Supplied by Net Galley and Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
UK publication date: Mar 05 2020. 352 pages.
Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.