Title: The Ballroom
Author: Anna Hope
Publisher: Black Swan
Published: September 1st 2016
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
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1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom vast and beautiful. For one bright evening every week they come together and dance.
When John and Ella meet, it is a dance that will change two lives forever.
Trigger warning for self harm.
The Ballroom is a historical romance novel set in the most unlikely of places – an asylum. Inspired by the author’s great great-grandfather, the multiple points of view follow the lives of patients John and Ella, and one of the medical officers, Dr. Charles Fuller. I had no idea what to expect going into this but, overall, I came out feeling glad I picked it up. The writing was easy to follow and I kept on reading because I was too intrigued about why the ballroom was so special.
A vast room located within the asylum where, once a week, the men and the women come together to dance. Though the story focuses primarily on the romance that develops between John and Ella, and Charles’ descent into what can only be described as madness, there are also other memorable characters such as Clem, Dan and even Old Germany.
The novel is divided into three main parts, the first two of which were the most interesting. Initially, the final part was much too slow, but then the story took a very disturbing turn that I most definitely did not sign up for. That being said, the author redeems herself with the epilogue, finishing off with a heartbreakingly beautiful ending.
Overall, the romance in this book is very subtle and the title is rather misleading as the ballroom is not at all the focus of the story. Instead, it’s more of a catalyst for the events that eventually unfold. There were also some racist comments that could have been omitted and pretty graphic descriptions, but I enjoyed reading John and Ella’s story nonetheless.