Book Review

The Binding by Bridget Collins

the binding

The Binding was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and I’m delighted to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.

Imagine you could erase your grief.

Imagine you could forget your pain.

Imagine you could hide a secret.

Forever.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.

The Binding is an unforgettable, magical novel: a boundary-defying love story and a unique literary event.

I think that the whole concept behind The Binding is fantastic, and I love the idea of books containing the memories that a person would rather leave behind.  Being able to completely forget those past mistakes and avoiding the subsequent regret can be an attractive proposition at times, and this novel explores the old proverb of “ignorance is bliss”.  Whether this is true or not depends on what it is you’re trying to forget and why, and I loved the exploration of both sides of this argument as Emmett struggles to accept what the work of a binder entails.  Part of this is his upbringing, as books are shunned by most, and binders widely considered to be undertaking unnatural work, something akin to the fear of witchcraft.

The Binding is split into three sections, each told from a different perspective.  The first section serves as an introduction to Emmett and the world of The Binding, and sets the scene nicely for what is to follow.  The reader sees Emmett’s apprenticeship to Seredith, and learns with him about what book binding involves.  Emmett is a great character, and from the beginning he comes across as a good person.  Growing up on a farm, he always expected that he would one day take it over, but a summons from a binder cannot be ignored.  It’s a timely intervention, however much Emmett objects, as Emmett has been suffering from a mystery illness for some time, and there seems to be some tension in the family.  The cause of both that tension and his mystery illness are just two of the mysteries to unravel in this novel, and I loved discovering more about Emmett as the novel progressed.

I don’t often talk about the physical attributes of a book, but I have to say that The Binding is as stunning on the outside as the in, and I love the attention that has gone into the design of the book in order to match to its contents.  It’s an original concept and is beautifully written, and I’d love to see another novel set in this world – I don’t feel quite ready to leave it behind just yet!  I can’t recommend The Binding enough – it is a fantastic book in every sense, and it’s likely to feature in my favourite books of the year.

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