Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories. Once their stories have been told and are bound between the pages of a book, the slate is wiped clean and their memories lose the power to hurt or haunt them.
After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade. He is forbidden to enter the locked room where books are stored, so he spends many months marbling end pages, tooling leather book covers, and gilding edges. But his curiosity is piqued by the people who come and go from the inner sanctum, and the arrival of the lordly Lucian Darnay, with whom he senses a connection, changes everything.
The Binding by Bridget Collins Book Review
“Books want to burn,’ he says. ‘They go up like that because – they’re unstable, memories don’t want to stay…”
The Binding is stunning, a beautifully written historical fantasy set in the Victorian age. The Binding has a very dark, gothic feel to it right from the start. There is something magical and eerie about the writing that sucks you in and makes you feel like you are right there in the world with the characters. This is a story about books, but not as we know them and about forbidden love.
“Maybe I should have followed him; but somehow it went from too soon to too late, without the right moment in between.”
If you could take every bad memory you ever had and make it go away, make the pain go away, would you?
Split into three parts we initially follow the life of Emmett after he has been taken ill. We learn that he is recovering from a mysterious fever and though he is trying to do his work on the farm, he is struggling and very aware that he is no longer as strong or able as he used to be. How did he come to be in this state?
It turns out that Emmett is destined to be a “binder” and we learn the why’s and how’s of that quite quickly. A binder is basically a person who takes away a persons memories and binds them into a book, leaving that person bereft of that memory forever (unless their book is destroyed).
Books are considered to be taboo, dangerous and forbidden. People do not read books and binders are considered to be witches by people who do not understand the craft.
Emmett begins his apprenticeship with a binder very early in the book and I found the whole concept to be incredibly interesting and I devoured part one of the book in no time at all.
In part two the book goes back in time and explores the pasts of both Emmett and Lucian as well as developing the love story and setting the stage for the final, most explosive and exciting part of the story.
We learn so much more about Emmett and Lucian in this middle section and their relationship is a very special one. It develops slowly and carefully and I love that it didn’t feel rushed in any way.
The author is so wonderfully descriptive that its difficult not to feel like you’re a part of it all. Their relationship is judged very harshly by their families and is the spark that ignites the series of events leading to Emmett becoming a binder.
In the final part of the story everything you have already read weaves together so nicely and doesn’t really leave you with any lingering questions. It really is one of the best written books I have read for quite a long time! It is a story full of surprises, magic, history and of course, books!
The Binding is a unique story in which you can see how much your memories affect who you are as a person. It shows what happens when the ability to make a bad memory go away can enable a bad person to continue to do bad things.
It poses the question, does it make you a coward to give up a memory that hurts you? And would you do it, if you could?