Starling, Belinda 1972-2006
Starling, Belinda 1972-2006
Born 1972; died from complications from surgery, August, 2006; married Mike Trim (a musician and producer); children: two.
The Journal of Dora Damage (novel), Bloomsbury USA (New York, NY), 2007.
Belinda Starling was an English writer. The mother of two young children, she died at the age of thirty-four after suffering from complications from a surgery to remove a cyst on her bile duct, only days after completing the manuscript for her debut novel. The Journal of Dora Damage, was published posthumously in 2007. The story is set in Victorian England and finds Dora Damage forced to take over her recently handicapped husband's bookbinding business to maintain their income. Desperate to get the family out of debt, she agrees to illegally bind pornography that is commissioned by aristocrats. However, she realizes that she may be in over her head when a mysterious runaway slave shows up on her doorstep.
Catherine Taylor, writing in the London Guardian, remarked that "Starling skillfully conjures up a dank, deviant London, although at times the plot seems as bewildering and overcrowded as the city itself," adding that "all the elements of the Victorian city metropolis are faithfully rendered." Taylor concluded that "her bustling, energetic book is a worthy addition to the ranks of historical fiction." London Independent contributor Roz Kaveney lamented that Starling's untimely death "deprived her audience of a writer of real accomplishment." Kaveney noted that Starling "had that most important gift for a historical novelist: the ability to wear her research lightly and to integrate every fact into a well-stitched tapestry of plot, symbol and character." Mike Cuth, writing on the Dust Jacket Review Web site, observed that "the historical material is dense but necessary because of the nature of Dora's work, and the plot quick and satisfying, while somewhat quirky." Cuth also said that "Starling goes into such detail about Dora's various creations that I wished there had been illustrations."
A contributor to Swiss News described the novel as "vivid, stylish, and witty," appending that it "will leave you breathless." Christian House, writing in the Spectator, observed that this "dizzyingly detailed … book revels in confounding expectations." House pointed out that "there are frequent nods to Dickens but the author neither descends into pastiche nor overlays the story with contemporary meaning. Instead, she concentrates on the human tale unfolding at the intersection between the affluent and the effluent." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews concluded that "Starling's cornucopia of ideas, research, issues and outrage tends to overflow, but there's entertainment in the novel's mood of near-comic irrepressibility and in its heroine." Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan noted that "the plot is a bit too crowded and overworked," but "artfully evokes" aspects of Victorian society. A contributor to Publishers Weekly found that some literary devices she uses do not work, "but she creates secondary characters with Dickensian flair," adding that "Starling's heroine is a woman of great energy and courage." Marika Zemke, reviewing the novel in Library Journal, concluded that The Journal of Dora Damage "manages to illuminate the harshness and ugliness that discrimination in any form brings."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2007, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Journal of Dora Damage, p. 31.
Guardian (London, England), November 10, 2007, Catherine Taylor, review of The Journal of Dora Damage.
Independent (London, England), November 29, 2007, Roz Kaveney, review of The Journal of Dora Damage.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of The Journal of Dora Damage.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Marika Zemke, review of The Journal of Dora Damage, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2007, review of The Journal of Dora Damage, p. 28.
Spectator, December 8, 2007, Christian House, review of The Journal of Dora Damage, p. 51.
Swiss News, February 1, 2008, review of The Journal of Dora Damage, p. 61.
Dust Jacket Review,http://www.dustjacketreview.com/ (May 12, 2008), Mike Cuth, review of The Journal of Dora Damage.
Wivenhoe Encyclopedia,http://www.wivenhoe.gov.uk/ (May 12, 2008), author profile.