Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Anna Hope is an author whose books I am always eager to read. They are the type of fiction that you are still thinking about days after finishing, there are scenes in her book Wake that I still think about a few years after reading it.
Hannah, Lissa and Cate have been friends for years. The reader sees their relationship develop throughout the novel through flashbacks. You see their dreams, first love, career, life choices and disappointments. You see the way they appear to others and the way they really feel. Most of the time they feel like failures, all for very different reasons.
Hannah was the character who appealed to me most, not only because I had a lot of sympathy for her, and the many women who go through similar situations but also because she was a lot warmer than the other two. Cate, I did struggle with occasionally but she dd grow on me and I appreciated her sense of humour and her putdowns. Lissa I struggled with more. I didn’t dislike her but she was more aloof. The reasons for this were explained in some degree towards the end.
The writing is stunning and the more I read about the three friends I was more reluctant to put the book down. I was totally engrossed in learning more about the three women and their families. None of it felt forced, there will be many people who see themselves, or their loved ones in any of these characters.
Highly recommended, one of my favourite books this year and I hope its not a long time to wait for book 4.
Having loved Anna Hope’s debut novel Wake I was really looking forward to reading her second novel The Ballroom.
It is set in 1911 at Sharston Asylum on the Yorkshire moors. Charles is a doctor who has an interest in music. He gets a position there and his wish is to improve the lives of the patients. He decides to play in an orchestra every Friday evening, patients are selected to attend so that they can have a dance. It is the only time that they get to meet patients who are the opposite sex.
John and Ella are just two of the patients there, and they meet on one of these evenings. John was very reluctant to attend. He is at the asylum after tragedy affects his personal life. Ella has been admitted after breaking a window at the asylum where she had worked since she was eight years old. She had only wanted to see the sky. Both of them have good friends in Dan and Clem. Dan is a bit of a rebel, a seaman who yearns for his freedom. Clem is happy with her books and is one of the few who has family visitors. John and Ella start to fall in love and try to make contact away from the dance. They are helped in this by Dan and Clem. At the same time Charles has become obsessed with John and is also following with great interest the debate in Parliament regarding eugenics.
A fascinating book to read. I thought that most of the blame when disaster struck was down to Charles. A man, very unhappy in his personal life who couldn’t be honest about his feelings. He feels under more pressure and gets vindictive with his decisions. I enjoyed the love story between John and Ella. Two people who shouldn’t have been there and trying their hardest to be together. But the most fascinating character for me was Clem. I thought her role in the novel was amazing, I don’t want to reveal why. To do so will be a spoiler but she will be the character who I will think about for a while. There also all the minor characters, some who remained nameless but all essential to the setting and they all felt real. I liked the way it ended, it was a bit of a surprise but it worked and was very fitting.
I knew that people were placed in asylums that shouldn’t have been, I was told stories throughout my teens about why people, especially women ended up there. Thankfully attitudes have changed.
With thanks to Alison Barrow for the copy received.