Hope, Anna. The Ballroom
Booklist Reviews 2016 August #1
In 1911, upon a windy moor in Yorkshire, England, sits an enormous facility that houses society's most derelict: the poor and the insane. Sharston Asylum is home to thousands of men and women committed against their will. By modern medical standards, treatment and consideration of the involuntarily committed on the eve of WWI was barbaric. Patients perceived three options: escape, die, or convince someone, somehow, that they were sane enough to leave. From the doctors' perspective, treatments for the mentally ill included isolation and forced sterilization. However, Dr. Charles Fuller has his beliefs and methods tested as he becomes infatuated with two of his patients, Ella and John, who against all odds grow close after they first meet when Ella is trying to escape. Part historical novel and part romance, The Ballroom paints an incredibly rich portrait of the mentally stable forced to live in an asylum. Hope (Wake, 2014) transports readers inside the asylum, to feel the thick humidity of the stale summer air of the day room, and the gritty and brutal reality inside those walls. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2016 September #1
In her second historical novel, Hope (Wake) vividly evokes a claustrophobic feeling of both physical and psychological confinement. Men and women are only permitted to meet once a week at the Sharston Asylum in 1911 Yorkshire, in the ornate ballroom where the asylum staff put on lively Friday night dances for their restless patients. Former factory girl Ella Fay and melancholic Irishman John Mulligan pursue their mutual attraction by secretly exchanging letters between dances, and the two fall in love despite the asylum's restrictive atmosphere and the harsh punishments meted out for transgressions. This furtive romance is soon threatened by the sinister attentions of a tortured young doctor whose greatest ambition is to impress the leaders of Britain's eugenics movement. The demented physician is the most developed of the novel's protagonists, so readers not in the mood to be disturbed may want to look elsewhere. Hope's writing is consistently beautiful no matter how unnerving her subject matter, however, and the story sheds important light on the eugenics movement popular in the early 20th century. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction by Sarah Waters or Emma Donoghue.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2016 July #2
Patients in an asylum in 1911 find hope and redemption amid the bleakest circumstances in Hope's heartbreaking second novel (following Wake). After a violent confrontation at the mill where she works, Ella Fay finds herself confined in the Sharston Asylum, a bleak institution on the edge of the Yorkshire moors where female patients are confined indoors, subjected to hard labor, and bullied by belligerent nurses. The one bright spot in the patients' week is the weekly dance thrown in the asylum's ballroom. Presided over by attending physician (and amateur musician) Charles Fulller, the dances are the one opportunity male and female patients have to interact. It's here that Ella meets John Mulligan, an Irishman confined to the hospital for melancholia after the death of his wife and child. The two strike up a passionate affair, facilitated by the clandestine exchange of letters. Such a romance runs counter to Dr. Fuller's philosophies on the treatment and welfare of his charges, which, to the modern reader, range from confusing ("excessive reading is dangerous for the female mind") to outright backward (forced sterilization). And as Dr. Fuller's own grip on reality begins to loosen, Ella and John's chances for a happy life—together or apart—begin slipping away. Though the subject matter is occasionally difficult, a compelling cast of emotionally resonant characters, as well as a bittersweet climax, render Hope's second novel a powerful, memorable experience. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC