The year is 1911, the setting is an asylum – of course I had to read these pages.
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.
“Panic sets its dark roots deep inside her.”
When Ella Fay finds herself locked up in Sharston Asylum, she wasn’t expecting to meet John Mulligan. She wasn’t expecting to dance with him. She wasn’t expecting to fall in love. The Ballroom is a dark and addictive tale, one that I wasn’t expecting to grip me quite the way it did. As someone who isn’t a fan of romance, I was worried this book would be too ‘lovey-dovey’ but that wasn’t the case, this was a tale of painful love. A love between two people, with perhaps some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome; as you read the narratives of John and Ella, your heart aches for them.
In this novel, we also get the narrative of Dr Charles Fuller, assigned as the doctor in charge of some of the patients’ care, he hopes to aid their recovery through music, hosting a mixed dance between the male and female patients every Friday. When you first meet Charles, he is likeable due to his desire to create positive change in the asylum but as the story progresses his character gets darker, his views change and his actions towards the patients become detrimental rather than helpful, adding to the tension throughout the book.
What really made this book stand out for me was the setting and the book’s minor characters that came with such a setting. Reading about the staff’s treatment of the patients, the abuse and humiliation, added to the dark tone of this book. When John sends Ella a letter, Ella relies on her ‘friend’ Clem to read it. Clem has her own troubles, suffering from severe depression, her character was unpredictable and her own story a tragic one.
This book accurately reflects the year it’s set in and people’s attitudes at that time in history. To say this was an enjoyable story doesn’t seem the right phrase, it’s more a sad story. Especially sad because throughout the read, I didn’t find one valid reason for Ella or John to be in Sharston in the first place. But sad in a good way, at times, disturbing, throughout dark, but a slow-paced compelling read that I highly recommend.