‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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 arouses fear, suspicion and prejudice – but neither one he nor his parents can 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 unique literary event.

Thank you to NetGalley, HaperCollins UK and Bridget Collins for the chance to read and review this book.

This mystical tale of family, duty and expectation, dark magic, love against the odds, lies, and self discovery is a story like no other, you will not be able to forget or stop talking about this magnificent novel.

Emmett Farmer is still recovering from a mystery illness that struck him down in the summer. He’s struggling to keep up with the work and is still weak, but is trying to hide this from his parents and sister, Alta, and make up for the work that piled up while he convalesced. As he arrives back at home one evening he hears his parents arguing about a letter that has arrived: Emmett has been summoned as an apprentice Bookbinder. He is confused when hear his Father saying he must go as years ago he told him he must never touch or read a book. Ultimately, it is decided there is no other choice but for him to go, he can not refuse the call from the Binder.

Arriving at the secluded Bindery Emmett is full of fear and trepidation. Books are bewitched, evil and that anyone who binds them is a sorcerer. His concerns are not allayed when he is greeted by the Binder, a thin, feeble and decrepit old woman named Seredith. As he is set to work he feels lost and still doesn’t understand why he was requested but at the same time keeps having a strange sense of deja vu. Emmett is even more confused when he enquires after the books they sell and is told they don’t sell books. Seredith explains that the books they bind are memories that people have asked to be bound in a book so that they don’t remember. They are stored in a vault and shouldn’t be read or sold, but there are some that create trade books for for profit or illegally sell the bound books. Emmett is horrified. How could he ever make such wicked things and take people’s memories?  Seredith reassures him he’s “Binder-born”, that in time he will feel able to do the job at hand and all will become clear. Emmett can’t imagine that to be true and his first binding is a frightening experience that he feels ill-prepared for.

I found the first part of this book  very confusing. We know only as much as Emmett and the author conveys his feelings so acutely that I found myself experiencing the same terrible bewilderment and desperate need for answers. When Emmett discovers a book with his name on he finally understands his feelings of deja vu and the story becomes clearer as we read about the memories he erased.  This part of the book is where we see more of Emmett’s character and I felt I connected with him. He is a man of morals, a good, but flawed character who tries to do what is right. Sometimes I understood him, other times I empathised with him, and there were times I was aghast he could do or think what I was reading. I felt his turmoil at what he was expected to do, especially when he learned that it wasn’t always used to help people, as Seredith had taught him. We also get to know his sister, Alta, and aristocrat Lucian Dornay and as the fates of the three are entwined a love story that challenges social bounds and sets them all on an ill-fated collision course that only being bound in a book can help them forget.

The Binding is a book I could write about for hours. The multi-layered plot slowly unfolds over the three parts and takes some surprising twists and turns. I did see one of the these twists coming fairly early on but this facet of the story took unexpected turns which made the book unputdownable and an entirely different story to the one I thought I would read. The author filled this book with memorable characters, some of whom are so sinister they made my stomach turn. I liked how even the ‘good’ characters became misguided as it made them real. I loved how the author introduced the concept of ‘fake’ books (novels) that were seen as more outrageous and confounding at the time, as were the people who would write such things. It was an interesting take on something that is the norm and did make me think how ludicrous such a thing as making up a tale rather than retelling something that happened, or was thought to have happened, could be when it was introduced.

This is an enchanting book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. If you want to read something totally different that everyone will be talking about then this is the book for you.

Out now.

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