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Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Published: 10th January 2019 – The Borough Press
Format: Hardback – 437 pages
“Perhaps I hear my name the way we hear singing in the wind: because we want to find meaning in meaningless things.” – The Binding
Hello Hello! How are you all today?
Happy Sunday! I thought that today would be the perfect day to post my review of the first five-star read of the year and maybe also my favourite so far! I read The Binding by Bridget Collins with Candyce from The Book Dutchesses as our first buddy read of 2021 and what a success it was!
Thank you so much Candyce for reading this book with me, I loved every minute of it, and here’s to more amazing buddy-reads with you! Now, let’s get into the review, however, let me warn you, I will waffle and gush a lot!
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 is a historical fiction fantasy in which we meet Emmett, our main character as he is sick and struggling to cope with the day-to-day until he is called to be an apprentice for a binder.
As soon as I started this book, I was swept away by the sheer beauty of the writing style and it’s just one of those books that you can’t stop, but also don’t want to end, it was just fantastic!
This book is set in an alternate universe, but as it says in the blurb, it is reminiscent of 19th-Century England, and it really is. It felt as if I had gone back in time and I could definitely imagine this world vividly. The author has such a beautiful writing style and her descriptions are just out of this world.
The universe, towns, forests, workshops she writes about in this book were described in such a way that I could picture them all easily and I think I would want to visit this place if it existed. In this world, books are dangerous and people do not read because of how bad they are, but the only reason that is so is because they are made up of peoples’ memories that are taken from them to ease their pain. But in other cases, the memories are sold to binders, who sometimes take a person’s whole life away and leaves them empty.
I really thought the setting worked perfectly alongside the plot and the characters. There was really a distinct divide between the rich and the poor, just like our own world and seeing this world in a sort of past time period was so intriguing. I struggled a little bit at the start to place the setting and period, but once I realised it was a parallel universe, I let this world pick me up and run with me, and I’m so glad I let myself go because I was utterly drawn into this world until the last minute.
This is the kind of book you want to read when you need comfort, or you fancy something a little darker than usual. But I also think it would be a great binge-read. I would have done that had I not been buddy reading it with Candyce, but I think the fact we stopped every day let us think about the events and it made us appreciate it even more!
Emmett: Emmett is the main character and it took me a little while to warm to him, but as soon as I had gotten to know him more, I liked him more and more as the book went on. He grows so much in this book, and I suppose you could say it’s a little bit of a coming-of-age story, but I loved reading about him. He is a sensitive, kind, caring and dutiful person. I really enjoyed reading about him and I am so glad and relieved for the way his story ended.
Seredith: We don’t see much of this character and what we do see is important for the rest of the book, so I won’t say much, but I will say that although she is a little bit stiff-upper-lip and rough around the edges, she helps Emmett come to terms with everything and helps him recover from his fever and illness. She is a little cold and distant, but she takes her job seriously and I also liked reading about her, even though she wasn’t my favourite character.
Lucian: He is one of the tricky characters because as the book went on, my thoughts about him were all over the place, mostly because the things he does and that happens to him change the way we see him, even though we know that is not his true self. I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but if you read the book you will know what I mean. I did end up really liking him, even though he was very stubborn at times and I wanted to shake him.
Alta: She is Emmett’s younger sister and one of the characters I disliked the most because I was rooting for Emmett the whole time, so I suppose that’s why aha! She is one of those characters that you could identify with as a teenager because love and relationships feel like life and death then, but when you read her as an adult, you want to shake her. So, she kind of bugged me to be honest, but it was kind of funny to read her reactions to things – I know I was like her growing up and it made me cringe aha!
Emmett’s parents: We don’t see much of these two either, but I instantly disliked them for the way they treated Emmett, and even more so in the second part when we understand why they treating him like that. I get that the time period and setting was the main reason for their behaviour, but it made me angry and sad for Emmett. The major part of the second part is fine, but at the end, there are definitely tense and strained moments between son and parents, so just be aware of that if you don’t like reading about tense relations and prejudice.
De Havilland: Again, not a very present character compared to others, but he is also an important one, even though I completely despised him. He is, in every sense of the word a rat and I hated him from start to finish.
Book-binding/forgetting/memories: This was the part of the blurb that drew me in when I bought this book just after it was released and I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to read this book because the blurb is the kind that makes you excited for books – like really excited – and the book itself is one that makes you remember why you love reading – yes, it is most definitely one of those books! This was such an interesting part of the plot that I adored and I suppose you could say that it is kind of a metaphor in some way of the reasons that we read today. We hide in books to forget life and I feel like the fact that people in this story get bound to forget what happened to them kind of resonates with that. I think it was a beautifully pulled-off plot and such an original and unique idea. I utterly adored it.
Family and other relationships: There are instances of family relations in this book, and they are a little strained right at the start, then better in the middle and they come full-circle at the end. They are not the worst family by any means, but if you have a tense family life, maybe you would not want to read about them, especially as Emmett’s family is very prejudiced and judgemental. However, there was another relationship that I adored, I was rooting for the couple the whole way through and I can’t say anything else apart from please read this book.
Human nature: I feel like this is another important theme in this book because there are some messed-up, sad, and awful things that happen to some of the characters. The whole plot is based on prejudice and judgment for something you don’t understand or you don’t think you would ever need. Book binding has turned into a shameful practice, but for Seredith and Emmett, it is a way of healing people and easing their pain – only with their consent though. It is interesting to see how everything plays out and the ways in which the characters act. There are also instances of violence, rape, a very graphic suicide, and I think you could say that this whole story is based on how bad and cruel human beings can be. However, hope is still present, which is what really makes this book special.
Love: The final theme I want to touch on is of course love. This book has a very strong instance of this theme, and I absolutely adored seeing how this played out. I really don’t want to spoil you because this was my favourite part of the book, so I’ll just hope that I have enticed you enough to want to pick it up and experience it for yourself.
Trigger Warnings: illness, homophobia, rape, incest, murder, graphic suicide, animal abuse and death, fire, violence, prejudice.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this book was astonishing, beautiful, spellbinding, magical, and such a special story that had me gripped from start to finish. Every day, when I picked the book up to read the chapters with Candyce, I was sucked into this world, I lived in it, I felt alongside the characters and I honestly forgot everything around me while I was reading. It was like I was watching a movie or walking with the characters, I don’t know how the author made this book so immersive, but kudos!
The writing style and pacing were just exceptional. I am a sucker for beautiful writing and get completely dragged into a book if the writing makes me feel things. There were too many amazing quotes for me to note them down, or tab the book, I think it would be filled with tabs, but when I reread it, I’ll tab it up! This book flowed so effortlessly, it’s a writing style which is more on the complex side, but it’s done in a way that is easy to read and it’s not clunky, heavy or info-dumpy. The characters, the plot and the setting were all fascinating elements to this book.
I gave this book 5 stars (see full ASPECTS rating below), I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was my first 5-star read of the year, and so far my favourite. I just can’t get over how amazing this book truly was. At the end of it, my heart was happy, the threads were tied up nicely but the ending was still somewhat open to let the reader imagine the future, honestly, this was a perfect book. I highly recommend this story and I really hope that you will want to pick it up, I guarantee you’ll love it if you love complex and unique plots, a touch of darkness, whimsy, beautiful prose, and a book that sweeps you away right up to the last line.
Thank you once again to Candyce for reading this one with me, it was a stunning book and a wonderful reading experience! We are definitely very good at picking great buddy reads!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post, see you soon, stay safe,
Atmosphere – 8
Start – 7.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 9
Characters – 9
Theme – 8.5
Style – 9.5
Total = 58.5
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If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK – Amazon FR – Amazon US – AbeBooks – The Book Depository – Audible FR – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Scrib’d – Kobo – Blackwell’s – BetterWorldBooks