Book review: The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

The Animals at Lockwood Manor is a gothic queer historical fiction come love story set in London in 1939.

Awkward but determined Hetty Cartwright, an assistant at the history museum has to evacuate the museums sizeable taxidermy collection to a safe place called Lockwood Manor in the countryside. Lockwood turns out to house both attraction and danger.

This was their chosen sacrifice: where other owners of country houses would be preparing for evacuated children and babies, the Lockwood would receive a quiet menagerie

The taxidermied animals move around the house at night, a ghost lurks the hallways, the house staff are hostile, as is Major Lockwood who owns the property, and bugs start eating the taxidermy. However, Major Lockwood has a beautiful but emotionally unstable daughter Lucy and the two women develop a bond.

I had never been the sort of person who was first to offer sympathy, a handkerchief, a listening ear, to an acquaintance who looked distressed, but something about Lucy made me wish to be. I wanted to help her; I wanted to make her smile.

The story is a slow burn. Gently spooky, atmospheric and moody with plenty of creepy cliffhangers. Themes including misogyny, lesbian love, outcasts, colonisation, class, sexual violence and facing your fears. In was particularly fascinated by the taxidermy.

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