Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.
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.
I read this book as part of a buddy read with a fellow book blogger Stephen and I enjoyed the experience so much. Usually I finish a book within 2-3 days and I lowkey hate that while I can love a book to bits, it doesn’t feel like I’m really savouring it? So the buddy read process was a nice change because it made sure I read up to a certain point and stopped there, rather than binge through the rest. I found I was also able to think about what I had read in more depth and more analytically as Stephen and I would talk about each section as we went. More than anything though, it was just fun having someone to talk to about the book and be excited with about what was going to happen next in the story.
Now on to the review!
Trigger warnings: mentions / allusions to rape, homophobia, suicide
The book follows Emmet, a young man who has just recovered from a mysterious illness, from which he still suffers the effects. Shortly after he is called to be the apprentice to a Binder, people who are able to magically take away a persons memories and weave them into books. Taken away from his sheltered upbringing and everything he knows, Emmet learns the art of binding from Seredith, his slightly strange but well meaning mentor. One day however, Emmet discovers a book with his name on it, which changes everything he thought he knew about himself and those around him…
One of my favourite things about this book was how atmospheric and captivating the novel was, even in quieter, less pivotal moments in the story. A lot of the atmosphere in this novel is built on absence and the feeling of isolation Emmet experiences, and this is furthered by the somewhat bleak setting; the bindery in the marshes, miles away from anyone else. When reading, it feels like you’re actually there in the bindery, feeling the hours, days and months go by in a sort of routine or monotony, to the point where you can almost feel the chill in the air when it snows in the novel or the warm respite a cup of tea provides. I’m a big fan of Collins writing style which is descriptive and enthralling, despite the stark and sad nature of the events she depicts at times.
As well as the atmospheric nature of the novel, I also really loved the whole concept of Binding and how it all worked. Imagine being able to erase unwanted or painful memories, placing them into a book and being able to move on from them? It makes you think about what it would be like if this magic was real, and how different the world would be but also how sadly similar. It made so much sense that while some binders have respect for the art of binding and treat their books as sacred, protecting them with their very lives if needs be, others are corrupted by greed and trade books illegally. Additionally, a smaller detail which was teased in the world of The Binding, which I really liked, is that novels are gradually emerging but are still new to the characters, as previously all books have contained lost memories.
While this book is about the magic art of binding and memories, at it’s core is a story of forbidden love, of being lost and found. I thought the way the relationship between the two main characters was written was so beautifully and it made me love the book even more. I loved that we got to read from both of their perspectives as this really rounded out the story for me and enabled a change of pace, setting and character which was welcome. Also, I’m so happy that they got a relatively happy ending because all too often there’s some bittersweet twist or gut punch ending and while I love those too sometimes, it felt good to know this novel ends on a more hopeful note.
My only points of improvement or what I wished could have been included, was more intricate details about the art of binding as well as more answers to some mysteries which were dropped throughout the novel. There are a number of loose ends which I would have liked an answer to but at the same time it kind of fits with the tone of the book to leave them as they are and leave the reader wondering. If you’re expecting everything to be clear cut by the end then you may be disappointed.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Binding and I would definitely read anything else Bridget Collins writes in the future. If it’s anything like this book, I’m sure I’ll love it. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of slower paced, thoughtful mysteries which have a sprinkling of magic and a healthy dose of romance.
Until next time,