ABOUT THE BOOK:
1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors,
For one bright evening every week
When John and
It is a dance that will change
Set over the
LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:
The Ballroom by Anna Hope
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Ballroom by Anna Hope is a 2016 McClelland & Stewart publication.
I really had no idea what to expect when I started this book. The synopsis was intriguing, but I couldn’t tell if this book was a romance or pure historical fiction. I suppose it’s a little bit of both, but I never could have guessed at the direction this book would take.
In 1911 Ella sealed her fate by committing the oh so heinous crime of breaking a window at the factory she worked as a spinner. She only wanted a glimpse of the outdoors, but was quickly diagnosed as hysterical and sent to Sharston Asylum.
If the patients are well behaved they are allowed to visit the ballroom, where they will meet the men who are housed in a separate location of the asylum, where they can hear music and dance.
This is where Ella meets John and a correspondence develops between them. But, Ella is under the watchful eye of her doctor, Charles Fuller, who is escaping his own private hell, as well as becoming interested in Eugenics.
Once the story got rolling the atmosphere swings from harrowing, to a sweet romance, to suspenseful,
If you read this book, I can promise you, it will stick with you a long, long, long time. I have caught myself, in quiet moments, thinking about these characters, this unforgettably haunting story, that cast an unusually heavy spell over me.
The asylum is a very unlikely place for a couple to meet and fall in love, but, despite the heaviness and gloom, this is exactly what happens. It is also the setting for the development of a deep bond of friendship, between Ella and Clem, a woman who helps Ella cope with being locked away in such a bleak, oppressive, and terrifying place.
The atmosphere, and utter horror the patients, are subjected to, is a powerful eye opener, especially when the topic of Eugenics is raised. The power over the residents or ‘patients’ in the asylum in this era of time is astounding and made my skin crawl.
The story is told from John, Charles, and Ella’s first person perspectives, each chronicling their desires, hopes, goals, deep thoughts and feelings. Naturally, the story rolls on into a virtual nightmare, that is absolutely harrowing as, ironically, the good doctor descends into an insane madness of his own, which made my stomach roil, as a truly terrifying sense of foreboding hung thick in the air.
This story will give your emotions a real workout, will educate you, horrify you, and break your heart, but above all, will tell a tender, bittersweet and poignant love story, which is the part I’ve locked away in my heart and memory. If you close the book with dry eyes, you are a much stronger person than I.
ANNA HOPE READS AN EXTRACT OF THE BALLROOM:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.
Anna's powerful first novel, WAKE, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, WAKE weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House. The book will be published in Doubleday hardback in early 2014.