Wednesday 12 August 2015

The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling ** Random Reviews from Way Back When ... **

I've been reviewing books online, on various sites since 2007. Random Thing Through My Letterbox has only been alive since March 2011, so there are around four years worth of reviews out there that I haven't featured on the blog.  Many of those are for books that I have loved.  I thought that I'd post them here. My review style has improved over the years I think ...

London, 1860: On the brink of destitution, Dora Damage illicitly takes over her ailing husband's bookbinding business, only to find herself lured into binding expensive volumes of pornography commissioned by aristocratic rou├ęs. 
Dora's charm and indefatigable spirit carry her through this rude awakening as she contends with violent debt collectors, an epileptic daughter, evil doctors, a rheumatic husband, errant workmen, nosy neighbors, and a constant stream of wealthy dilettantes. 
When she suddenly finds herself forced to offer an internship to a mysterious, fugitive American slave, Dora realizes she has been pulled into in an illegal trade of sex, money, and deceit.

The Journal of Dora Damage whips up a vision of London when it was the largest city in the world, grappling with the filth produced by a swollen population.
Against a backdrop of power and politics, work and idleness, conservatism and abolitionism, Belinda Starling explores the restrictions of gender, class and race, the ties of family and love, and the price of freedom in this wholly engrossing debut novel. 

The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling was published by Bloomsbury on 5 November 2007.

Belinda Starling grasps you by the hand and pulls the reader into Victorian London from the very first page of this fantastic story.

Dora Damage takes over her ill husband's book binding business in 1860. Although this is frowned upon by her neighbours and associates, Dora is determined to make a living for her family. She is soon to find herself binding pornographic books on the orders of the aristocracy. Very quickly Dora finds herself caught up in lawlessness, slavery, bare knuckle fighting, sex and money.

Dora's Journal conjures up Victorian London excellently, the filth, the smell, the poverty, the perversity of the rich and the misery of the poor.

The history of book binding is fascinating and well researched. The issues of family values and the freedom from slavery are dealt with sensitively and also with a passion and in vivid explanation.

I devoured this book in three days and truly did not want it to end, but was just as keen to find out the fate of Dora, her daughter Lucinda, Din the negro slave and Lady Sylvia.

It was with real sadness that I read that Belinda Starling died soon after completing the book. This is an excellent first novel, on a par with Sarah Waters, it is a great loss that we will not be able to enjoy further novels from this wonderful author.

Belinda Starling Trim, lived in Wivenhoe, and died on 11 August 2006 following an operation to remove a cyst on her bile duct. She was 34 and left a husband and two small children.
English Literature, Drama and Music were Belinda's great loves and one of her happiest times was teaching Romeo and Juliet to teenagers in KwaZulu. Belinda's letters, sent back home that summer, clearly showed how much she enjoyed sharing her intellectual gifts with others less fortunate. Belinda died knowing that Bloomsbury would publish her first book, The Journal of Dora Damage. What she did not know was what a success it would be and how fantastic the reviews.
Now, in her memory, Belinda´s family have established the Belinda Starling Memorial Fund with the Foundation, to help young people in Essex, whose literary drama or music ambitions and talents just cannot take root without help and encouragement, and money.
"It would have made Belinda very happy to know that a Fund in her name was giving young people opportunities to realise their full potential", said her father David Starling. "We are so pleased to be working with the Foundation and feel very much a part of the team."


1 comment:

  1. Anne - I loved Dora Damage too! Nice to see you bring it to the attention of your readers, and hopefully to a few new fans.