Author: Anna Hope
Published: 11th February 2016
Today I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Ballroom by Anna Hope with my review. The list of other fabulous blogs on the tour are listed below with their own content posts, so if you are following the tour, don't forget to check them out.
Having read Anna's acclaimed debut Wake last year and being so impressed with it, the prospect of her second novel The Ballroom, had me very keen to read. I have a penchant for books written in the 20th century as I find it fascinating to see how much of, not only our way of life, but our way of thinking changed in such a short space of time. The Ballroom highlights just this. Set in 1911, in an asylum, this is where John and Ella meet at the Friday dances in the ballroom, along with the growing tensions of how best to handle the inmates of an asylum.
Where do I find the words to begin describing this beautiful book? Wake blew me away, but I think it's safe to say that The Ballroom has managed to top this.
The narrative is split between three main characters, Ella and John, the two inmates and Charles who is a doctor at the asylum. Three very well-developed and fascinating characters. A story that can get me so invested in its characters emotionally is a novel that knows how to reach out to a reader and draw them in. This is exactly how I felt with these three and in particular Ella and John. We see right into their very hearts and minds and I could feel myself becoming desperate for them. Their story just had to work out and I as much as them longed for their Friday dances in the ballroom.
Anna has once again woven multiple perspectives so cleverly into the story and again is clearly well researched. I found it fascinating and horrifying at the same time to see how people of the early 1900's handle mental health issues. As well as this I was horrified with the way they viewed the working class, as if they were lesser human beings and this is particularly highlighted with Ella as she is in the asylum for suffering from 'hyesteria' which is thought odd, as it is normally only 'middle class' women that suffer from this. What is also highlighted is how little it took to be carted off into the asylum and how little a voice and say the working class had.
Charles' character was the one that got to me the most. Initially you believe he is on the inmates side, but we see his own mental state change and I ended up loathing him. He is the catalyst for a lot of events that I found hard to read and I became angry with him. You begin to think that he is the one that should be in the asylum, whereas John and Ella should be free. This was a brilliant contrast though and it also highlights was little mental health understanding people had in those days and also feel shocked at the treatment they received.
This book made me angry, sad, hopeful, desperate, but ultimately it gives you hope and it took my breath away.