This Is(n’t) a Ghost Story: A Review of The Animals at Lockwood Manor


The Animals at Lockwood Manor

By Jane Healey

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

POC Main Character: No

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: It’s England in August of 1939 and Hetty has just arrived at Lockwood Manor with a collection of stuffed mammals from a natural history museum in London. She comes with the hopes of proving herself as capable of handling these precious displays of the natural world as one of her male coworkers would.  But the manor is old and full of secrets. Folks in town say it’s haunted. Ghosts certainly haunt Lucy, daughter to the manor’s lord and sole heir to the estate. The manor is colored by her tragically mentally ill mother. Hetty thinks it is only bad memories that stir up trouble here, but when parts of the museum’s collection go missing, she must discover all of the manor’s secrets or risk losing everything, even her own mind.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

I am an absolute sucker for gothic stories. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched Crimson Peak or how I devoured We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I love the drama, the aesthetic, the way you gasp at every dark corner of the novel. I was eager to devour The Animals at Lockwood Manor, and devour it I certainly did.

Healey’s queer gothic romance manages to feel like walking through the manor itself, pacing the floors with Lucy as she does her nightly counting of each room. It draws you so completely into the minds of the two women that you find you’ll find yourself questioning everything you know. Are the halls haunted? Is Hetty really losing animals? Is Lord Lockwood a tragically romantic widower or a vicious womanizer? Can you really trust what you see? Can you trust your own memories?

One of the themes this novel tackles so brilliantly is gaslighting. Hetty is a woman in a male dominated field, working in a place where she is neither trusted nor believed. She tries to raise her voice, to fight when she needs to, but she is also tired and lonely from years of being talked down to. Over the course of the novel, most everyone around her causes her to ask, “Am I right or are they?”

Lucy fares no better, worse in fact. Lockwood manor is a place of deeply shrouded truths. Lucy’s own mother frequently gaslit her, denying events or words she’d tolds Lucy. The result is that Lucy is cowed by the world, unable to trust herself outside the walls of the manor. Sometimes even that is too much.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor feels modern despite its historical setting. This is both good because it makes it accessible to the modern reader, but it is also incredibly sad to remember how long women have had to struggle to be heard in a world that would silence them. Healey wants to let the reader know that the past is not so distant and has a long shadow. 

The antagonist tries to tell these women they are no better than the stuffed animals of the museum being housed in Lockwood Manor. Certainly there are those who think of women as pretty showpieces today. But women have teeth that can bite, voices to scream, and stories to tell. This story is powerfully vivid with the voices of these women. So while the journey through the halls may be uneasy, it is well worth the steps.

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love The Animals at Lockwood Manor? Leave a comment, telling me of another gothic story you love. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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