Saturday, November 13, 2010
The Journal of Dora Damage is a novel about a Victorian era wife-of-an-ailing-bookbinder, who gets involved in binding books of erotica for a group of degenerate but influential gentlemen. This novel is written in a subtly modernised period voice (first person) and is obviously based on a well-researched understanding of both the facts and the sensibilities of the era.
I almost gave up on this book several times in the first few chapters. It is densely written and a little too pleased with itself at times. The prologue, epilogues and afterword seem like unnecessary pretensions. But once it gets going the story is a strong and compelling one. It combines elements of women's fiction, adventure and romance along with some interesting themes in the areas of pornography and perversion, freedom and feminism, pragmatism and idealism.
I particularly appreciated a story about a historical figure who is not titled and wealthy, and lives within the very limited means of a family that would be counted, at that time, as 'lower middle class' (essentially hand-to-mouth in a few rented rooms). Dora Damage is also not a fancy-free adventurer who is free to do pretty much anything she wants, but a women responsible for her family and friends who has to constantly balance the needs of income and reputation. Nevertheless, Mrs. Dora Damage ends up on some extremely perilous circumstances and depends on her wits and her character to win through.
I think The Journal of Dora Damage might be of particular interest to writers of erotica and/or enthusiasts of the Victorian era. In fact, this book might suit any readers who enjoys a well-researched, densely-written, character-driven historical story (e.g. like the Aubrey-Maturin series but written within the feminine realm of experience). I would certainly recommend it highly.