I picked up The Binding on an innocent visit to the local Oxfam bookshop. I wasn’t intending to buy anything of course, but I tripped and fell, which led to me leaving with this and probably some others. But let’s not dwell on that, or why I am buying more books when I already work in a bookshop, let’s talk about why we’re all here. The Binding. What a book!
by Bridget Collins
Emmett Farmer is a binder’s apprentice.
His job is to hand-craft beautiful books and, within each, to capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If you have something you want to forget, or a secret to hide, he can bind it – and you will never have to remember the pain it caused. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and secrets – are meticulously stored and recorded.
Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of the volumes has his name on it.
The Binding Review
Recently I’ve been in the mood for some atmospheric, magical reads. I know, spooky reads in October? Groundbreaking. But nevertheless, I’ve really wanted to sink into a new world and The Binding was the perfect book for that. It’s magical realism, with a drop of historical fiction and a good stir of romance, which creates a spellbinding concoction that I loved.
Set in an alternative 19th century England, we see the world through the eyes of Emmett Farmer, a young man of low social status who is recovering from a horrific mental and physical illness. No longer able to help his family, he is chosen to become a binder’s apprentice. In a world where books are feared, Emmett’s future feels uncertain as he moves in with the old woman in her silent cottage. Over time he learns the secrets of binding: if a person has a memory that they want to forget, it can be ‘bound’ into a book and it is the binder’s job to do this.
The book is split into three parts. The first part is a slow burn, with a lot of unanswered questions and gaps, which reflects Emmett’s state of mind and his trepidation of entering a world full of unknowns. Then the second part (which was my favourite) is a big reveal and a step back in time, which fills in more of his story and introduces wealthy, privileged Lucian Darnay, another key character. Finally, the third part jumps to Lucian’s perspective, which I didn’t expect at all, and adds another layer of complexity to the story.
It’s hard to review this without giving any more spoilers, so I won’t get into the details, but I loved this concept so much. The book is quite dark in lots of ways, with a cast of dubious characters and questionable morals surrounding the act of binding, yet it never gets too much as the love story brought me so much joy.
I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read this one and on the author’s next book The Betrayal.
Thanks for reading, speak to you soon.