Anna Hope - Author

About the Author

Anna Hope was born in Manchester and educated at Oxford University and RADA. She is the author of the acclaimed debut Wake. The Ballroom is her second novel, and is inspired by the true story of her great grand-father.

Author photo © Jonathan Greet, 2014

 

Below is a Q & A with this author

 

Your author’s note states that The Ballroom was inspired by your great-great-grandfather. Would you tell us a little about how you came to know of his story?

I was doing some digging into my family history and came across the census of 1911, where a tiny, crossed out note stated that my great-great-grandfather was a patient in Menston Asylum. I had never heard of the place and immediately searched on the internet, and found a fantastic archive dedicated to the building that had opened in the Victorian era as West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and only closed its doors in 2003.


The archive held many old photographs and as I looked further I came across a picture of the ruined, spectacular ballroom at the asylum’s heart, and knew I had to write about the place.


The details of my great-great-grandfather’s life emerged gradually in the course of my research; he was admitted to the asylum as a ‘melancholic’ who hardly spoke, and died there, having never recovered bodily or mental health in 1918. I really wanted to honour a little of his memory in writing the book.

The natural world almost becomes a character in the novel as the 1911 heatwave summer progresses. How important was it to you to evoke the atmosphere of the Yorkshire moors?

Incredibly important! I grew up not far from where the book takes place, over the Pennines in Lancashire, and throughout my childhood I was struck by how industrial towns lay cheek-by-jowl with such wild and open country. I was always fascinated by that contrast between the relative claustrophobia of working lives spent in factories and mills and what the moors beyond their walls might represent. So it seemed natural to explore those themes of freedom and confinement in The Ballroom. Ella is in the asylum for breaking a window, simply because she wants to see the sky. John is brought back to himself after a devastating depression by his contact with working the land. It is his guilt that he is outside, experiencing this beautiful summer that leads to him writing to Ella, and them falling in love. So landscape, love and language are all intimately connected in the novel.

The three main characters are very different, was it ever hard to make their voices distinct?

Well, I wrote a whole first draft of the book in first person, hoping to capture their voices on the page. Ultimately it was the wrong approach for the book, but I think it really helped me to think my way into the characters. Many writers talk about seeing their characters, but I have a hard time with that; instead I feel them, like a pulse, and hear them. In terms of dialogue, it was fairly easy with Charles, he’s such a talky character, even if only his internal chatter, but it was harder with Ella and John, because both are very private, internal characters who don’t speak much.

The theme of eugenics become very important as the novel progresses. Were you shocked to discover of the extent of the belief in eugenics in Britain at the time?

Very shocked. Especially seeing Churchill’s language as Home Secretary for instance; so much of it, in its concerns over race hygiene and purity seemed to echo that of his great enemy twenty years later. It’s as though the Nazis were so extreme and horrifying, that we’ve forgotten our own role in the eugenics movement, which was significant. It’s easy to demonise Churchill though, the fact was that there were many, many people across the political spectrum who were supporters of the theory, from the Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb, to George Bernard Shaw. It’s a fascinating, troubling time to read about.

Featured books by Anna Hope

Wake

Wake

Author: Anna Hope Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/01/2015

Hope's unblinking prose is reminiscent of Vera Brittain's classic memoir Testament of Youth . (New York Times). Remembrance Day 1920: A wartime secret connects three women's lives: Hettie whose wounded brother won't speak; Evelyn who still grieves for her lost lover; and Ada, who has never received an official letter about her son's death, and is still waiting for him to come home. As the mystery that binds them begins to unravel, far away, in the fields of France, the Unknown Soldier embarks on his journey home. The mood of the nation is turning towards the future - but can these three women ever let go of the past?

Wake

Wake

Author: Anna Hope Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/01/2014

Five Days in November, 1920: As the body of the Unknown Soldier makes its way home from the fields of Northern France, three women are dealing with loss in their own way: Hettie, who dances for sixpence a waltz at the Hammersmith Palais; Evelyn, who toils at a lowly job in the pensions office, and Ada, a housewife who is beset by visions of her dead son. One day a young man comes to Ada's dorr. With him opens a wartime mystery that will bind these women together and will both mend and tear their hearts. In this shattering novel of intertwining lives, Anna Hope shows the beginnings of a new era, and the day the mood of the nation changed, for ever.

Other books by Anna Hope

Ballroom

Ballroom

Author: Anna Hope Format: eBook Release Date: 06/09/2016

A searing novel of forbidden love on the Yorkshire moors';a British version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (The Times U.K.)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 worldliving apart, yet forever changed. Praise for The Ballroom';The Ballroom successfully blends historical research with emotional intelligence to explore the tensions and trials of the human condition with grace and insight.'New York Times Book Review';Part historical novel and part romance, The Ballroom paints an incredibly rich portrait of the mentally stable forced to live in an asylum. [Anna] Hope 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.'Booklist ';A compelling cast of emotionally resonant characters, as well as a bittersweet climax, render Hope's second novel a powerful, memorable experience.'Publishers Weekly';Hope's writing is consistently beautiful. . . . Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction by Sarah Waters or Emma Donoghue.'Library Journal ';A beautifully wrought novel, a tender, heartbreaking and insightful exploration of the longings that survive in the most inhospitable environments.'Sunday Express ';The Ballroom has all the intensity and lyricism of [Anna] Hope's debut, Wake. At its heart is a tender and absorbing love story.'Daily Mail ';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.'Yorkshire Post ';As with Hope's highly acclaimed debut novel, Wake, the writing is elegant and insightful; she writes beautifully about human emotion, landscape and weather.'The Observer ';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 Irish TimesFrom the Hardcover edition.

Wake

Wake

Author: Anna Hope Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/01/2015

Hope's unblinking prose is reminiscent of Vera Brittain's classic memoir Testament of Youth . (New York Times). Remembrance Day 1920: A wartime secret connects three women's lives: Hettie whose wounded brother won't speak; Evelyn who still grieves for her lost lover; and Ada, who has never received an official letter about her son's death, and is still waiting for him to come home. As the mystery that binds them begins to unravel, far away, in the fields of France, the Unknown Soldier embarks on his journey home. The mood of the nation is turning towards the future - but can these three women ever let go of the past?

Funf Tage im November

Funf Tage im November

Author: Anna Hope Format: eBook Release Date: 07/03/2014

Funf Tage im November 1920. Zum ersten Mal in der Geschichte werden die Uberreste eines unbekannten Soldaten bestattet und nach London gebracht. Wahrenddessen versuchen drei Frauen, mit ihrer eigenen Trauer fertigzuwerden: Adas Sohn ist im Krieg verschollen. Sie ist uberzeugt, dass er noch lebt. Lady Evelyn betrauert den Tod ihres Geliebten, ein Neuanfang ist fur sie undenkbar. Die junge Hettie ist im glamourosen "e;Palais"e; fur einen Sixpence als Tanzpartnerin zu mieten. Sie traumt davon, sich zu verlieben und dem tristen Leben zu entfliehen. Drei Frauenschicksale, auf dramatische Weise miteinander verknpft Ein mitreiender Roman ber die Folgen des Krieges und den Beginn einer neuen Zeit.

Wake

Wake

Author: Anna Hope Format: eBook Release Date: 11/02/2014

Anna Hope's brilliant debut unfolds over the course of five days, as three women must deal with the aftershocks of World War I and its impact on the men in their lives. Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath. London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, she looks for solace in her adored brother, who has not been the same since he returned from the front. . . . Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core. The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.Advance praise for Wake ';Hope's unblinking prose is reminiscent of Vera Brittain's classic memoir Testament of Youth in its depiction of the social and emotional fallout, particularly on women, of the Great War. . . . Hope reaches beyond the higher echelons of society to women of different social classes, all linked by their reluctance to bid goodbye to the world the conflict has shattered.'The New York Times Book Review';Wakeis a tender and timely novel, full of compassion and quiet insight. The author gives us a moving and original glimpse into the haunted peace after the Great War, her characters drawn by the gravity of the unmarked, the unknown, and perhaps, finally, the unhoped for.'Chris Cleave, author ofLittle Bee';Wake is a compelling and emotionally charged debut about the painful aftermath of war and the wayssmall, brave, or commonplacein which we keep ourselves going. It touches feelings we know, and settingsdance halls, war fronts, queues outside the grocer'sthat we don't. I loved it.'Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry ';Wake is powerful and humane, a novel that charms and beguiles. Anna Hope's characters are so real, flawed, and searching, and her prose so natural, one almost forgets how very great a story she is telling.'Sadie Jones, author of The Uninvited Guests ';Using telling detail, Hope creates a vibrant physical and emotional landscape in which her leading characters, and a sea of others, move irresistibly into the future, some having found resolution, others still in search. Fresh, confident, yet understated, Hope's first work movingly revisits immense tragedy while also confirming her own highly promising ability.'Kirkus ReviewsFrom the Hardcover edition.

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http://annehope.com/

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