The Journal of Dora Damage
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The Journal of Dora Damage

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  569 ratings  ·  95 reviews
In the tradition of Sarah Waters, a rich, sweeping historical novel set in Victorian London, about a bookbinder's wife who, to save her family, must take over her husband's business.

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 c...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2006)
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Okay book. About a poor woman in 1860s London who takes over her husband's book-binding business when his health deteriorates. Wonderful setting and characters. Charming writing. Interesting and very unique plotline. I liked it up until a certain point between the middle and end, where the story went into an odd and rather absurd place for me. Because the beginning was all so realistic, with a large part dedicated to showing how Dora manages to make due with the little her family has, when it cr...more
May 29, 2013 S. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Victoriaphiles, deviants, Londonlovers and anyone who loves a strong female heroine
It's very good, though it could have done with some minuscule touches of tasteful editing here and there to make it completely brilliant, which is why it doesn't get full marks.
Knowing that the author died shortly after finishing, I suspect it's possible that those around her wished to have it published as close to the way she'd written it as possible.
From an emotional point of view, I know that would certainly have been my urge if I'd just lost someone way before their and my time and this was...more
Oct 07, 2007 Andi rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: bibliophiles
Shelves: review-books
The Journal of Dora Damage is a wonderful book about a woman who takes over her husband's book binding business and falls into a job binding pornography for a secret society of London's upper crust. Dora finds herself on an intellectual and sexual journey that awakes her senses and puts her entire family in danger. Starling has crafted a beautiful tale full of intrigue and atmosphere. Sadly, the author passed away shortly after completing this book. Definitely give this wonderful book a shot.
I am not very squeamish when it comes to taboo topics, so to read something about the delightful deprivation of the Victorian pornographic trade was fascinating. The topic is one I have encountered before but never from this point of view - that of a female book-binder dragged into the business when her husband becomes ill and unable to work.

The woman in question is Dora Damage. At the beginning of the book she is a beleaguered Victorian housewife with a husband who insists that women book-bind...more
Very promising first half. Starling has a nice touch with the prose, and is convincing on Dora's Victorian world. She's clearly done her research, and it was fascinating to learn about the craft of book-binding. I think in our age of mass-production, books have lost their uniqueness and individual worth. I love the idea of getting a bespoke binding for a favourite volume. I love the idea of the binder choosing materials to suit the book's content and the character of the reader. I want one. :-)

Sex! Intrigue! Bookbinding! The last drew me to this book at first -- you don't see too much fiction where bookbinders take center stage -- and so it was with a surprise that mirrored Dora's (albeit not so intensely) that I found myself reeled in by the first two aspects as well. It's a great book; Starling deftly weaves a historical novel where every detail down to the soot stains unfolds naturally, breathing a huge amount of life into setting and characters alike. That same attention to detail...more
Well, as the rating indicates, I really liked it. (And for those of you wondering why it took me so long to finish it, as it's been on my "currently reading" list forever, the answer is: it didn't take me that long, I just delayed updating my info as I wanted to write a thoughtful review, and life was in the way.)

If you like stories set in Victorian London, and/or if you like stories about strong female characters who are nevertheless hemmed in by cultural circumstances, then you will like this...more
You’re probably looking at the description for Belinda Starling’s “The Journal of Dora Damage and thinking, “Not yet ANOTHER Victorian-era novel based n sex, intrigue, murder, etc” while rolling your eyes. Well, stop being a Debbie Downer! “The Journal of Dora Damage doesn’t follow a traditional story arc, as one would expect.

“The Journal of Dora Damage” lacks a “usual” introduction to the narrator (clearly, Dora in first person perspective), and her family. However, this is the prime case stud...more
Sono combattuta nel recensire queste 400 pagine. Iniziamo col dire che si legge facilmente e il tomo è stato pesante solo per i miei polsi, a letto, dopo una giornata passata sulla tastiera del computer. Però la storia, che inizia in una povera famiglia londinese, a un certo punto cambia tono. E lo fa pian piano, senza che tu te ne accorga subito, ma prima o poi si nota e stride un po'.
Dora è la moglie di un rilegatore di libri abbastanza apprezzato, ma ormai in declino a causa della sua malatti...more
Ava Black
This is a hard book for me to rate because I think it had a lot of potential but, as it often happens, it did not stand up to it.
When I pick up a novel I always look for:

1) a great, strong - headed and strong - willed heroine! A girl who is not a frail woman who need other people ( especially men ) to tell her what to do. At the same time, my ideal heroine has her own flaws and is sensitive.

2) A way with words. This is very simple, most of the books are written by people who, for me, shouldnt'...more
Laura Locatelli
E' stato il titolo ad attrarmi.
Suonava come qualcosa di nascosto e proibito, qualcosa da sussurrarsi piano per non farsi sentire. E' per questo che l'ho comprato.
E dopotutto, non è così lontano da quello che contiene questo libro.
Parte subito con un diario, un inizio "dalla fine" che tendo a non apprezzare. Da grande fanatica del thriller preferisco un medias res.
Però come libro si è fatto apprezzare. Ti affezioni subito alla protagonista, una donna della Londra vittoriana, che cerca di emancip...more
This story follows Dora Damage as she takes over her ill husband's book binding business. A woman running a business is very frowned upon by her neighbours and customers but she needs to make a living to support her child. As money becomes harder to come by, she starts binding illegal pornographic books for her wealthier clients. As often happens in illegal business, she finds herself getting deeper and deeper into this new world of slavery, sex and money.
This book really brings you into the sig...more
What a book! First of all the name is wonderful! Second, "Damages Bookbindery: Bindings of Any Kind" with a picture of a corset.... well doesn't that just invite. That said, this book sat on my shelf for awhile because the actual pages and binding of this book and the first sentence didn't quite pull me in when I would randomly pick it up. And once I did - it did take a little reading to settle in to the language of mid-1800's London. But once I did, I was hooked. Damages in a book-bindery in Lo...more
Completely absorbing...loved it! A memorable array of beautifully described characters, and the descriptions of every day life in 1860's London for the 'lower-middle class' were gritty and believable. Best of all, the intriguing and sinister story at the core of the novel pulled me in and I couldn't put it down.
Not many books finish with a note from another author (in this case, Boris Starling who happens to be Belinda´s brother telling us the unfortunate and untimely death of his sister immediately after she finished writing her debut novel - The Journal Of Dora Damage. It´s really sad that such a promising author had met such a ungrateful death especially when she shows in her first and only novel such talent. Sad, indeed,
As for the novel itself, there were times when I pondered to review this book w...more
English Department
Dora takes over her husband's book binding business during the 1870s when union pressure threatens to shut down those who employ women. Though writing is considered a feminist act of self-assertion, that women should write themselves, Dora has no control over the production of texts she binds; she mearly embellishes them - a reference to her exploitation and objectification. This is symbolised in the dresses she uses to cover the texts and further played on in the visual pun between bindery and...more
This review originally appeared at

“Finishing is the way [a] book presents itself to the world and gets noticed; the forward is more like women’s work, for one never notices it unless it has been shoddily done,” muses Dora Damage of Damage Bindings. It’s mid-eighteenth century London, and Dora speaks from experience: her role in the business is little more than nominal. Dora is the invisible brownie of the household, taking care of the thankless, repetitive tasks tha...more
Bel feuilleton storico ambientato in una Londra vittoriana lontana dai soliti fasti e corsetti. La protagonista, Dora Damage, vive in quartiere rispettabile in una casa le cui condizioni ci fanno comunque rabbrividire dall'alto del nostro Ventunesimo secolo. Dora è moglie di un rilegatore, Peter, che è però affetto da una grave forma di artrite reumatoide. Quando la malattia gli gonfia le mani al punto da impedirgli di lavorare, Dora è costretta a prendere in mano le redini della famiglia e deci...more
Ho trovato questo libro particolare, intrigante e davvero ben scritto.
Inizia lento, con il susseguirsi di vicende che sembrano non dicano niente in tutto, finchè a metà del libro si fa tutto più veloce, tutto si svolge in modo frenetico e davvero imprevedibile. Fino al finale che lascia increduli.

La storia si svolge in una Londra ottocentesca in cui le apparenze sono tutto, in cui è l'uomo a portare a casa il pane ed in cui le superstizioni sono molto sentite. In questo contesto la figura di Do...more
Joe Toledo
A mediados del siglo XIX, en el Londres Victoriano, la londinense Dora Damage asume el control del taller de encuadernaciones de su marido. Sus primeros clientes son los miembros del club Los Nobles Salvajes, un grupo de aristócratas que coleccionan libros o tratados pornográficos al más puro estilo de la mostrada por Kubrick en Eyes Wide Shut que a veces encuadernan con piel humana. Dora experimentará un despertar sexual leyéndolos, hasta que descubra otros turbios secretos. En este libro, nos...more
Celia Powell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Jan 24, 2011 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: bibliophiles and women's studies scholars (substitute your preferred term as appropriate)
This book has its 4 or even 5 star moments. But toward the end I started to feel unconvinced by the direction the story was taking. It felt too much like a novel, as silly as that sounds.

At times it made me think of Possessing the Secret of Joy, but that's probably only because of certain slightly similar events. You could probably write an interesting paper about these books. The historical detail and language were handled well and faithfully, so far as I can tell. It's very unfortunate that t...more
Dalene van Zyl
Dora Damage has to take over her husband's bookbinding business when he gets too sick to work and they are on the brink of losing everything. But as a woman in 1859 she is not allowed to work in that trade and the union will not allow her to do the usual bookbinding. The only avenue open for her is to get involved in the pornography of the era and in the process see the dark underside of the Victorian establishment. The biggest buyers and sellers of pornography are also the judges, churchmen and...more
It takes a while to get into the story and the way in which it's told, but it's more than worth it.

What I found especially remarkable, and something I only noticed once I'd finished the book, was the feeling I got that I'd read two books. The beginning (or rather most of the first half) focusses mainly on the life of a woman in the 19th century and the bookbinding business, while in the end it starts focussing on very different acts (the more bizarre and occult). The shift in focus happens in s...more
Un libro che parla di un'epoca completamente opposta alla nostra, in cui tutto era vietato, scandoloso e amorale. Oggi, invece, la pornografia è quasi una cosa da tutti i giorni, non ci scandalizziamo più a vedere uomini (che non siano nostro marito) a torso nudo e il sesso è forse, anzi, sicuramente dei tre il tabù più infranto.
E credo proprio che la bravura di questa scrittrice si riveli proprio nel fatto che ti racconta un'epoca così lontana (il libro è ambientato nella Londra del 1859) con i...more
Set in Victorian England, this novel has a Dickensian flavor, but overlaid with a (perhaps anachronistic, perhaps not) treatment of that holy trinity of issues that dominate contemporary literature & scholarship: race, class, & gender, along with a heavy dose of the almost as dominant issues of sexuality. Yet all of these issues are treated with impressive complexity & sure-handedness. The story is narrated by the wife of a London bookbinder who falls ill & is unable to work. She...more
Dora Damage is unhappily married to a man whose obsession with his good name and the need to "protect" women verges on stupidity - his arthritis (and maybe dropsy?) have made him unable to practice his bookbinding, and when he falls prey to moneylenders Dora must take matters into her own hands, even if that means learning to bind pornography. Lots of interesting characters crowd this historical/lit-fic/romance that was the author's first and only novel - the marks of firstnovelishness (sprawlin...more
Historical novel about a woman who takes over her ailing husband's bookbindery and ends up binding erotica for decadent aristocrats. The author managed to work in critiques of women's rights, slavery, attitudes toward the disabled and homosexuals,and imperialism in a book that tries hard to explore many of the major issues of the time period (early Victorian). The fact that it takes on so much and still makes for a good read about this woman's adventures and misadventures is a remarkable accompl...more
Sam Still Reading
Nov 05, 2009 Sam Still Reading rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: saw it in a bookshop
A pretty good book, though the topic (Victorian pornography) may not be to everyone's taste. I found some areas to be a little too squeamish for me.

Set in Victorian London, Dora is the poor wife of a bookbinder living hand to mouth in Lambeth. Her husband can no longer work, so when she is paid handsomely to bind some unusual works, she does so but gets in deeper and deeper with some odd fellows...

The focus in the latter part of the book is less on Dora's job, but the importance of love, friends...more
Dora Damage decide tomar as rédeas do negócio familiar de encadernação quando o marido fica inválido. Face à eminência da pobreza, assume negócios que, sem saber, a acabarão por enredar no perigoso submundo dos livros proibidos da época. Ao desfolhar a literatura a seu cargo, apesar de também encontrar as mentes mais cruéis e perversas, também aprende a assumir e disfrutar da sua sexualidade. Um livro cativante sobre a quebra de preconceitos, a força interior e aquilo que se consegue atingir qua...more
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