Tuesday, July 12, 2011

THE JOURNAL OF DORA DAMAGE

Have just finished  reading the latest book THE JOURNAL OF DORA DAMAGE - what a fabulous tale, with  Victorian London as a backdrop.  The author Belinda Starling set her debut novel against a book-binding business in a poverty-stricken part of London, circa 1860.  With the family almost ready for the workhouse due to Dora's husband's terrible illness, she illicitly takes over his business, only to find herself lured into binding expensive volumes of pornography for the upper classes.  Dora's indefatigable spirit carries her through this rude awakening as she contends with horrible debt collectors, an epileptic daughter, ghastly doctors and a constant stream of wealthy dilettantes.   When poor Dora is forced to offer a job to a mysterious, fugitive American slave, Dora realises she has entered an illegal trade of money, sex and deceit.

The Journal of Dora Damage provides a vision of London, then  the largest city in the world, grappling with the filth produced by a rapidly  growing population. Against a clever curtain of politics and power,  conservatism and abolitionism, Belinda Starling explores the problems of class, gender and race, the ties of family and love, and the price of freedom in this fascinating tale. Quite a packet!

Huge success followed Belinda's debut novel in 2006 but tragically this lovely girl from Wivenhoe, Essex, died in August 2006. Published by Bloomsbury ISBN 978 0 7475 8522 0. £12.99

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