Skip to main content

Review: The Journal of Dora Damage, by Belinda Starling

Dora Damage is the wife of a lesser-known bookbinder in Ivy-street in London. Her husband suffers from rheumatism, and her daughter has epilepsy, also known as the Falling Sickness. When Peter Damage becomes to sick to continue with his work, Dora finds herself taking over the business, and she takes on a client who wants her to bind copies of salacious literature. Dora becomes acquainted with the client’s wife, who enlists Dora’s help in finding a job at the bindery for an American slave named Din.

I was on the fence about this book. On one hand, I love the atmospheric setting; London in the 1850s and ‘60s is a great place to escape to when reading historical fiction. And although the characters are well-defined, that’s not necessarily a good thing; some of the characters descend into being stereotypes (the silly, empty-headed noblewoman, the cardboard cutout villain, or the fallen woman-turned maid-of-all-work). The dialogue of the African-Americans didn’t ring true, either.

The plot of the book requires the reader to suspend their sense of disbelief in many places (one example is the character of Sylvia, who seemed to drop her old life in Berkeley Square at an astonishing speed, later taking on lovers with blatant disregard for what might happen). I thought the author cheapened the book a bit by including the romance part. And I could see the ending coming from a mile away. But the book’s strength is recreating a time period that’s long-gone; Victorian London is described in painstaking detail. I also enjoyed Starling’s descriptions of the art of bookbinding.


I might consider this one at some point. I do love Victorian London, but I suspect the romance elements may bother me as well.
Kristen M. said…
Thanks for the review ... I just moved this from my Amazon list to my library list instead. Sounds like something I would read just once (if at all).

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…