By Anna Hope
I loved 'The Ballroom'. It is a swooping, amazing romance of a book.
Caught up in the asylum system for the most flimsy of reasons, Ella and John first come across each other when she tries to escape. After that, they cannot forget each other, and finally are able to spend time together in the Friday night dances held in the ballroom of the asylum.
As well as segments of the story being told through the eyes of Ella and John, there is a third strand told through the eyes of Charles, a doctor at the asylum. Charles is a very interesting character as, although in many ways he is the one with the power, in fact he is just as tortured as John and Ella. He is in denial about himself and seems incapable of finding happiness.
Reading ‘The Ballroom’ will make you feel angry about how the inmates of asylums were treated, about how they were thought of by some as less than human, and about the ludicrous reasons why some people ended up incarcerated in such a cruel way. In Ella's case it was because she broke a window. In many cases, it was simply for the crime of being poor.
But there is some hope in the way the human spirit, embodied in both John and Ella, was able to overcome the imprisonment in different ways. I loved the way a glimpse of sky through an open window, a flower, or a bird feather representing the outside world could take on huge significance.
This story could have been a much simpler one that it was - at one point a very neat conclusion suggested itself. But the author went for something more complex, more believable and ultimately more satisfying. I’m glad she did.
I don't want to say any more for fear of spoilers, but the ending is perfect, moving and beautiful.
I highly recommend this novel. A tale of love, pain and humanity in the most difficult of circumstances.
Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.
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