The Animals at Lockwood Manor

Jane Healey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-358-10640-1
Healey animates the dusty halls of an old English manor house during Hitler’s bombing blitz in her impassioned if mannered debut. Assigned to safeguard a London museum’s taxidermied specimens during the Luftwaffe bombing campaign, assistant curator Hetty Cartwright accompanies the collection to the countryside. Lockwood Manor, home of Lord Lockwood, aka the major, though, is an ominous refuge. The house’s occupants include the major’s frail, grown daughter Lucy, whom he suggests should “not to be troubled with too many difficulties or dramas,” and their few remaining servants, and Healey conjures an eerie vibe with empty rooms and bricked-up dead end passageways. Each night, the museum’s animals seem to move on their own, shifting from rooms and cabinets, even disappearing. As Hetty and Lucy become close, Lucy shares stories about her mother’s descent into madness, evoking the Victorian theme of the madwoman in the attic and revealing the truth behind her unhealthy state. The story’s satisfying conclusion redeems the creaky period prose (“I cared not a jot”). This will be of interest for fans of revisionist gothic narratives in the vein of Sarah Perry’s Melmoth. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/17/2019
Release date: 03/10/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-358-10525-1
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