Summary and book reviews of The Ballroom by Anna Hope

The Ballroom

A Novel

by Anna Hope

The Ballroom by Anna Hope X
The Ballroom by Anna Hope
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2016, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Claire McAlpine

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A searing novel of forbidden love on the Yorkshire moors from the author of the critically acclaimed debut Wake

England, 1911. At Sharston Asylum, men and women are separated by thick walls and barred windows. But on Friday nights, they are allowed to mingle in the asylum's magnificent ballroom. From its balconies and vaulted ceilings to its stained glass, the ballroom is a sanctuary. Onstage, the orchestra plays Strauss and Debussy while the patients twirl across the gleaming dance floor.

Amid this heady ambience, John Mulligan and Ella Fay first meet. John is a sure-footed dancer with a clouded, secretive face; Ella is as skittish as a colt, with her knobby knees and flushed cheeks. Despite their grim circumstances, the unlikely pair strikes up a tenuous courtship. During the week, he writes letters smuggled to her in secret, unaware that Ella cannot read. She enlists a friend to read them aloud and gains resolve from the force of John's words, each sentence a stirring incantation. And, of course, there's always the promise of the ballroom.
 
Then one of them receives an unexpected opportunity to leave Sharston for good. As Anna Hope's powerful, bittersweet novel unfolds, John and Ella face an agonizing dilemma: whether to cling to familiar comforts or to confront a new world—living apart, yet forever changed

1911



Winter–Spring



Ella

"Are you going to behave?" The man's voice echoed. "Are you going to behave?"

She made a noise. Could have been yes. Could have been no, but the blanket was pulled off her head and she gasped for air.

An arched hall stretched before her, lit with lamps. The thin hiss of gas. Plants everywhere, and the smell of carbolic soap. On the floor were tiles, reaching out in all directions, polished till they shone, some in the shapes of flowers, but the flowers were black. She knew then that this was no police station, and started shouting in fear, until a young woman in uniform appeared from the darkness and slapped her on the cheek. "There'll be none of that in here."

Irish. Ella whipped her head back, tears in her eyes though she wasn't crying. She knew those Irish girls. There were plenty at the mill. They were mean as hell.

Another woman came, and they put their hands beneath her armpits and began pulling her toward two doors. Ella ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A haunting, highly readable novel of extremes, The Ballroom explores love and loss; progress and terror; and nature versus the institution, all of which will appeal to those who enjoy books with a slow tension-fueled build-up and an emotionally satisfying ending.   (Reviewed by Claire McAlpine).

Full Review (676 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A compelling cast of emotionally resonant characters, as well as a bittersweet.

Booklist

Part historical novel and part romance, The Ballroom paints an incredibly rich portrait of the mentally stable forced to live in an asylum.

Daily Mail (UK)

The Ballroom has all the intensity and lyricism of [Anna] Hope's debut, Wake. At its heart is a tender and absorbing love story.

Sunday Express (UK)

A beautifully wrought novel, a tender, heartbreaking and insightful exploration of the longings that survive in the most inhospitable environments.

The Observer (UK)

As with Hope's highly acclaimed debut novel, Wake, the writing is elegant and insightful; she writes beautifully about human emotion, landscape and weather.

The Irish Times

A brilliantly moving meditation on what it means to be 'insane' in a cruel world ... All the characters are vividly and sensitively drawn. ... Deeply moving.

Yorkshire Post (UK)

Compelling and masterful ... Anna Hope has proven once again that she is a luminary in historical fiction. ... She delivers profound, poignant narratives that stir the emotions.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Perfecting Humanity - The British Eugenics Movement

Eugenics CartoonAs mentioned in Anna Hope's historical novel The Ballroom, just over 100 years ago in 1912, London hosted the first International Eugenics Conference, an event attended by people who believed in the prevention of those deemed inferior – whom they labeled 'feeble-minded' – from reproducing. It was a categorization that referred more to their social class and wealth than intellectual ability. From The Spectator, 25 May 1912:

The only way of cutting off the constant stream of idiots and imbeciles and feeble-minded persons who help to fill our prisons and workhouses, reformatories, and asylums is to prevent those who are known to be mentally defective from producing offspring. Undoubtedly the best way of doing this...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Ballroom, try these:

  • Blue Asylum jacket

    Blue Asylum

    by Kathy Hepinstall

    Published 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In the midst of the American Civil War, a southern plantation owner's wife is arrested by her husband and declared insane for interfering with his slaves. She is sent to an island mental asylum to come to terms with her wrongdoing, but instead finds love and escape with a war-haunted Confederate soldier.

  • Human Traces jacket

    Human Traces

    by Sebastian Faulks

    Published 2006

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    What is it to be human? This question, as in Birdsong, is at the heart of Human Traces. Set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this is an extraordinary novel that brings to vivid life, through the story of the volatile friendship and dedicated careers of two determined men, the epic quest to map the human mind.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.