• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,081,327 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

[126] The Journal of Dora Damage – Berlinda Starling

dora.jpg“Apart from the knavery–the villainous way the photographs had been so constructed to convey the worst imaginings between human beings—I was also rankled by their lack of honesty, for all their presentations to integrity. These were not images for anatomical study and pictorial accuracy: the printing alone would have cost more than Jack’s monthly wage, and their weighty bindings would push their cover price far higher than anything any ‘artist of discernment’ could ever afford.” (216)

Peter Damage’s rheumatism has always been troublesome and fitted him ill for his chosen trade. With his arthritic fingers failing him, he could no longer do the delicate, painstaking work of a bookbinder. Soon Dora Damage discovers the tremendous extent to their debts, and that the business borders on ruin. She begins making frequent visit to the pawnshop. The knocking on the door of her landlady who seeks the past-due rent constantly reminds her of the dire financial straits. But what really weighs heavy in her heart is Lucinda, her daughter who suffers from epileptic fits.

Realizing that pawning pots and pans, old bric-a-brac will not save her family from the death of penury, she summons her courage to rescue the business. She takes up book-binding despite of her husband’s occasional jest at her immature skills. She decides to make up a particularly fine book which she touts around booksellers who haven’t been overly prejudiced or directly affected by the recent troubles. The lavish work that she does in binding a patron’s Bible brings her to the notice of society’s elite, in particular a physician who has a whim on images for anatomical study.

Immediately Dora finds herself illegally binding pornographies for these aristocrats, whom she later discovers have formed a secret society that is responsible for these repelling, unromanticized images that invert the tenderest act between man and woman. To her these works breathe iniquity, diabolism, and viciousness. The arrival of an American slave who is in need of work has awaken that sense of self-enlightenment. It suddenly dawns on her that she too, has been enslaved to binding the sordid texts against her will. But she finds herself in a precarious situation in which she knows too much about this promiscuous business to quit, and her life is at stake. Struggles to disentangle herself, Dora only gets trapped deeper as more shocking secrets about the patron and the materials which she has been binding are revealed.

The Journal of Dora Damage has so many twists and turns that keep the story afresh with suspense. It presents a startling vision of Victorian London, juxtaposing its poverty and filth with its affluence and corruption. Dora Damage is entangled into the underworld of sex, greed, money, deceit, law, and racial identity. The underlying theme of race subtly emerges upon the arrival of the black fugitive who aspires to return to America to start a revolution, dawns on Dora’s sense of self-identity, of love, and of sacrifice.

2 Responses

  1. Even now, it’s hard to escape the porn business.

    Great review. It’s sad what people sometimes have to do to survive.

  2. Great review! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: