Monday, January 07, 2008
3. "The Journal of Dora Damage" - Belinda Starling
"London, 1860. 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 roués. Her indefatigable spirit carries her so far through this rude awakening, but when a mysterious fugitive slave arrives at her door to whom she is duty-bound to offer an apprenticeship, she realises she has become entangled in a web of sex, money, deceit and the law, which only grips tighter the more she struggles against it.
"The Journal of Dora Damage whips up a vision of London when it was the largest city in the world, swamped by the filth produced by a swollen population; its sweat, stench and misery are both the details and the bigger issues of the book. Against a backdrop of power and politics, work and idleness, conservatism and abolitionism, it explores the many 'binds' operative at all levels of society - the restrictions of gender, class and race, and the ties of family and love - and examines the price at which freedom can be obtained by the transgression or acceptance of society's rules and taboos." - from her website.
Sometimes it takes extensive circumstances to get me to read a certain book - in this case, it was the author's premature death after complications from surgery. She lingered long enough to know the book would be published. What frustration, what heartbreak. And, considering the other themes of the book, how health "binds" us to the bleakness society offers. Overall, a worthy mystery with polished details created from well-rubbed historical sources.
3.0 out of 5.0 Victories.