Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

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

    Genres

  • 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" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • 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...continued

Full Review (676 words)

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

(Reviewed by Claire McAlpine).

Media Reviews

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • 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" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Ballroom, try these:

  • The Girls with No Names jacket

    The Girls with No Names

    by Serena Burdick

    Published 2020

    About this book

    A beautiful tale of hope, courage and sisterhood, inspired by the real House of Mercy and the girls confined there for daring to break the rules.

  • Blue Asylum jacket

    Blue Asylum

    by Kathy Hepinstall

    Published 2013

    About this book

    More by this author

    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.

We have 4 read-alikes for The Ballroom, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Anna Hope
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    A Kind of Madness
    by Uche Okonkwo
    The word "madness," like many others that can be used to stigmatize mental illness — e.g., "...
  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Book Jacket
Look on the Bright Side
by Kristan Higgins
From the author of Pack Up the Moon comes a funny, romantic, and moving novel about life's unexpected rewards.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.