First book review of the month – and what a treat this proved to be! I didn't know much about The Animals at Lockwood Manor before I started reading it, but I felt drawn to it after glimpsing some insights from the blurb: a vast, isolated mansion in a state of disrepair, a (potential) resident ghost, enigmatic and troubling family dynamics, and an unsuspecting young woman stumbling in the middle of it all. What's there not to like?!
The year is 1939 and the bombs have started to fall on London, so Hetty, who is responsible for the mammal exhibit at the National History Museum, leaves the capital with the precious specimens entrusted to her care. It's fair to say she doesn't get a good feeling about her new home, and her interactions with Lord Lockwood do little to reassure her.
I enjoyed the way Hetty's character and personality grow, as the story progresses: initially portrayed as an anxious and quiet individual, she slowly grows increasingly strong-willed and fiercely independent. She refuses to be cowed by her host's glacial welcome and bullying behaviour, and shows considerable courage when persisting in her search for some of the specimens that go missing.
Hetty's initially fledgling friendship with Lucy, Lord Lockwood's daughter, is an uplifting development and a it's a joy to see it blossoming along the pages. Other minor characters contribute to the plot and the little hints they drop in their interactions add more mystery to the story.
This is a dark and at times spine-chilling read that, although quite descriptive in places, had many unexpected turns and kept me guessing right to the end. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend.