Ballroom, The

Hope, Anna

  17 Reviews

The Edwardian era is coming to a close, but at Sharston Asylum on the Yorkshire moors, it is business as usual. Their progressive approach to using music to help rehabilitation allows Friday night dances in the ballroom, the only time the men and women come together, and it is here that John Mulligan and Ella Fay meet. But the greatest barrier to their growing attraction is not the segregation but Dr Charles Fuller and his fascination with the practice of eugenics, misusing his authority, and with John in his sights.

From its historically accurate backdrop to its beautiful descriptions of the countryside, this is a poignant and absorbing story that examines our notions of madness and sanity through its sensitively drawn characters and their compelling back stories. [Larger font]



An interesting read - captured the time well.
NELS 042
A moving and confronting read. Ugly events described with beautiful, poetic language.
AUCK 412
A very mixed result, review-wise. But the book evoked a big discussion re mental health, particularly how easily people were "diagnosed" and incarcerated when, many times, they were only reacting to their difficult living situations etc etc.
AUCK 256
Everyone enjoyed the book and found it quite sad, especially the ending. Good discussion re Mental Health and who was perceived to mentally unwell back in those times, often people who actually had nothing wrong but were "trouble". Some even probably had post natal depression. Well written.
WINT 001
Overall there were mixed reviews from our readers as some thought the themes were quite dark. Those who really enjoyed it felt the writing was very good, especially with the inclusion of local words. There was an interesting and wide ranging discussion from eugenics to the care of those with mental health issues both in the past and today. It is worthwhile looking up the institution where the author's great grandfather was held, as it gives a good idea of the scale of these buildings.
Overall our group enjoyed this book and although most felt it was sad it was a good picture of social history and how mental health was looked at. The subject of eugenics was surprising to us and provoked some discussion. Enjoyed the human interaction and overcoming of adversity. Two of our members knew the area where the book was set, both are Drs and one's father was a Psychiatrist and she also studied in the area so we were able to picture the area more through their eyes.
The group generally enjoyed reading this book and it generated interesting discussion about the treatment of mental illness and the eugenics movement. The story covers some serious themes in a very readable and thought-provoking way. Some felt that the prologue gave too much away, others were misled by it, but all agreed that it was a satisfactory ending.
CHCH 229
A compelling read. Slow to start. Enjoyed a lighter read - and it stayed light when it could have been darker.
Evoked plenty of discussion, particularly between the medic and psychologist in our group. The psychologist found it very disturbing having worked in similar places in Britain.
MAST 014
We all loved 'The Ballroom'. Well-written on a very different subject, and we all learnt a lot, especially about eugenics and how Churchill had supported it.
Most enjoyed the book, and it led to a very interesting discussion on eugenics and the medical opinions of the time.
We all really enjoyed this book. A sad and moving story. Very interesting as based on a real place, and the author's great- grandfather's experience. The Eugenics movement generated good discussion at the meeting!
MAST 005
A very lively discussion about eugenics, behaviour of staff and 'inmates'. Beautifully written, excellent plot and ending.
One member found this book gloomy and depressing but the rest of us found this picture of the treatment of 'mental' patients in 1911 disturbing but enlightening. Several members were encouraged to persevere, and found it a very rewarding read. The place of "the Ballroom" as a pivotal theme and the place that Charles's music played with the weekly dances was interesting. The growing love between John and Ella was beautifully portrayed and very moving as were the descriptions of the Yorkshire countryside. All in all a wonderful book which led to much discussion of various themes.
We all loved this book and think it might be the read of the year.
NELS 015
We all enjoyed this book though some felt the ending was a bit rushed and unsatisfactory. A fascinating and horrifying insight into mental institutions in the early 20th century - the whole idea of eugenics being seriously considered for the "feeble-minded" gave rise to good discussion. The lack of qualifications for the doctor was also concerning given that he was responsible for the patients. However there did seem to be a degree of humane treatment with good food, music therapy and dancing, and for the male inmates at least, being able to work outdoors. Not so good for the women.
AUCK 038
Very thought-provoking!