The Binding by Bridget Collins

Published by Harper Collins

I’m nervous about my review this week – not because I disliked The Binding, but because I adored it so much I’m struggling to come up with words that are worthy of it. I had not read any of Bridget Collins’ work before this week when I read The Binding cover to cover in approximately 24 hours (admittedly with very little sleep!). I’m often hesitant about writers that I don’t know well, but for what is not the first time in this column, I have been delightfully surprised.

The book begins from the perspective of our main character Emmett Farmer, a young man who had worked on his family’s farm before being struck with a seemingly unexplainable illness. It is because of this, and his family’s deep and mysterious hatred of books, that Emmett is surprised to hear he has been asked to be the apprentice of a bookbinder in the marshes a few miles from their town. Despite his confusion as to why he has been chosen and how much use he could possibly be with his illness, he is sent to the binder.

Upon arriving at his mentor’s home and workshop, the truth of the art of binding and Emmett’s connection to it begins to unravel. He discovers that books are made up from the most painful memories of people who don’t want them anymore, and that binders possess the magic to take those memories from their minds and convert them to books. The only way to get your lost memories back is to burn your book. Emmett’s sickness is a sign of a naturally talented binder and that he must learn his newly discovered calling. The apprenticeship goes smoothly at first, until Emmett makes the startling discovery that there is a book with his name on it, throwing the story into an intense, captivating new light.

The reader is immersed in a twisted and enchanting love story with an expertly plotted political, and all too realistic, undertone. Some characters are so vicious and familiar that it’s not only fascinating, but almost difficult to read. Alongside those, of course, there are characters you grow to love, but they are built with more subtle flaws, and make mistakes that stir a distinct urge to throw the book across the room.

I couldn’t believe it when The Binding was recommended to me by a friend, but it really is everything wonderful that is so often missing from modern fiction. I wish I had more to say to describe it, but as there is nothing I could say that would compare to the spell The Binding put me over, I must ask you all to read it.