I’ve been so lucky this year to have had so many fantastic books come my way, both from wonderful book people and through choices of my own. Everything from A Thousand Ships to The Ten Thousand Doors of January and all the numbers in between have captured me, and there have been some truly stunning books in my first quarter of the year. The Animals at Lockwood Manor is another book that has really captivated me.
It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020, so you can guess how elated I was when I was approved for a proof e-copy from NetGalley. What was particularly beautiful for me personally was I sat reading a large portion this with a stunning view out over the New Forest, with birds tweeting, horses in the field below, and a great cup of tea, in the early morning sunshine. Reading just before the current situation rolled across the country, the memory now makes me even happier; a wonderful book, in a wonderful setting.
The book starts with the hint of war in the air, and Hetty, working for the Natural History Museum, has finally gained a chance to be seen as more than just a woman, and the restrictions that come with that in the 1930s. Excited, apprehensive, and determined to prove herself to her superiors – and everyone else. As the trucks are packed up, she looks forward to the journey to Lockwood Manor where she can stand up tall, in charge, and not be questioned for once.
But that’s where the ideal ends, and the reality begins. From the moment Hetty and her precious cargo arrive at Lockwood, things are evidently not going to go to plan.
As I said, this was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, and it was worth every single day I had to wait. Beautiful, painful, creepy and fantastic, every page was irresistible. The writing was by far one of the most stunning styles I have come across, and the character were utterly wonderful. Hetty captured my heart, and Lucy broke it, then together they fixed it again. The amount of love they both have for the animals is captivating, and the descriptive work throughout the whole novel is utterly perfect. I feel a bit like I’m listing cliche words, but I am honestly at a bit of a loss to discuss just how beautiful this book is.
Historical fiction has been a large part of my 2020 reading so far, and I’m so glad it has been. This book covers so many areas – gothic hints, romantic tinges, modern history, feminist power – that there is something in it for almost everyone. And look at that cover! What an utterly stunning book. The recent trend of elaborately beautiful books has not been lost here, and it suits the book itself so much.
Hetty’s voice brings so much passion to this book, and if more characters could have her power, there would be an amazing collection of women in the fiction world.