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The Ballroom by Anna Hope
  

The Ballroom

Historical Fiction   Family Drama   Historical Fiction   Literary Fiction   Romantic Fiction   eBook Favourites   eBook Favourites   

RRP £7.99

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A striking, eloquent and desperately beautiful novel, set during 1911 in a Yorkshire asylum. John, Ella and Charles find themselves at the edge of an impossible future, each decision they make, sets connecting wheels in motion. This is a fictional story, with fictional main characters, however it is firmly based in fact. On reading the Author’s Note at the end, I understood why the emotional connection the writing gave to these characters, was so intense. Anna Hope writes with a powerful pen, one moment whispering, flickering emotions dart across the page, in the next a ferocious roar almost overwhelms, and I savoured every word. I literally couldn't put ‘The Ballroom’ down, I felt the unimaginable fear and mayhem, suffered every moment of confusion, and willed love and friendship to flight. While a profound darkness shadows the story, I found myself with a heart full of aching hope. This is a captivating, penetrating and thought-provoking read that I highly recommend. ~ Liz Robinson

Click here to view Wake by the same author.

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

'The Ballroom took my breath away when I first read it and still does now, when I revisit it. For the sheer power and musicality of its language; the striking relevance of its themes of love and madness and social mobility; the radiance of its personalities, all of them so indelibly drawn that they live and breathe in your mind.

Anna really understands character, not only as agents for a riveting story, but also as spectres of the human condition. John, Ella, Charles – all of their narratives feel so immediately urgent as you turn the page, but they also have a greater resonance, something lasting and elemental. When reading The Ballroom, I feel the spark of Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence, even Cyrano de Bergerac, and I know that I’m reading the early work of a truly iconic writer.' ~ Jane Lawson, Editor, Doubleday

If you like Anna Hope you might also like to read books by Judith Allnatt, Helen Dunmore and Nigel Farndale.

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Synopsis

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

Compelling, elegant and insightful . (Observer). Beautifully wrought, tender, heartbreaking . (Sunday Express 5/5). Moving, fascinating . (Times). A tender and absorbing love story . (Daily Mail). Unsentimental and affecting . (Sunday Times). Exquisitely good . (Metro). 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 historical love story. It tells a page-turning tale of dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

Reviews

'A British version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Moving. Fascinating' Times

'An unsentimental and affecting story' Sunday Times

'Compelling, elegant and insightful.' Observer

'In this deeply moving book, Hope reminds us that behind everyone's facade lies something waiting to be rent free' Irish Times

'An original, brilliant, evocative novel' Chris Cleave

About the Author

Anna Hope

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.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2016

Author

Anna Hope

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Author's Website

annehope.com/
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Publisher

Black Swan an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd

Format

Paperback
352 pages

Categories

Historical Fiction
Family Drama
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
Romantic Fiction
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction
First World War fiction

ISBN

9780552779470

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