Review: The Ballroom (Anna Hope)

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Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Format: Hardback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 320
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Buy from Book Depository, Kinokuniya Malaysia

Blurb:

By the acclaimed author of WAKE:

Where love is your only escape ….

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.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

REVIEW:

There is only one way to describe this book: Breathtaking.

This is why I love reading historical fictions, they have this air of mystery and a bit of a paranormal aspect because of its time frame. But I’m glad to say this book is not as creepy or disturbing as one might associate asylums with. Yes, it was based in a Yorkshire asylum where the patients’ mental states are described in detail. But never was it made to turn you off at the idea of them. Rather, it made me feel close with the characters and everything that surrounds them.

“Why? What way are you?”

“Oh. All wrong,” said Clem with a brief smile. “I’m all wrong.”

This book was brilliantly written, in a way that haunts you. In a way that makes you repeatedly think of the characters and the evil that lurks in the medicine field back in the days where doctors felt superior to everyone else.The plight they made in the early century was horrifying, how they could easily think they deserve to make the choices for all mankind.

And the not running was a pain all over her body. But the pain of leaving was worse. And she was caught and pulled between the two…

There was a disturbing scene where a doctor made the observation that a women who reads too much will be prone to insanity as she is not fulfilling her nurturing duties. God, I can’t imagine living in such misogynistic situations where what you read is dictated by someone else.

The plot was alright, but as historical fiction goes, it isn’t the best part. The writing and the historical portrayal usually is.

How terrible it must be to be old! To have nothing pleasant or exciting ahead, only the contemplation of a past that may or may not have been what you had wished.

I also love the characters 3-POV narrative: John, Ella and Charles (the doctor). The book alternates between the three giving us a good glimpse into Sharshton Asylum. We see how they struggle in keeping their sanity in check, and craving for the freedom that has been denied to them. The romance that stemmed between John and Ella is so brilliantly written that it will keep you on your toes because you just don’t know what to expect next.

He did not need a war to come and remake the world; in her he could be made new…

The ending is heartbreaking as most historical fictions go. They are an accurate resemblance of the harsh reality of life and how it was truly difficult back then to be mentally unfit in a society of so many self-righteousness. This book questions morality, insanity and how subjective it can be, and also love and is consequences to freedom.

I urge you to read this haunting, beautiful tale of two souls and what kept them apart. The Ballroom is a story that stays with you long after you’ve reached the last page…

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