“The Binding” by Bridget Collins

I haven’t updated in 9 days! That’s just about a record for me I think. Have been having an absolute pig of a time at work lately. Always tough at the start of final exam season and I’m also responsible for college applications this year so it’s been more than a little hectic.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

So, The Binding. I feel a little guilty writing this review because I actually got this ARC ages ago. In my defence, I was approved a few days after the publication date and since then I have bought the Waterstones sprayed edges version AND the audiobook so I feel like the author and the publisher have got their money’s worth out of me.

So how was it? I really enjoyed this book but I guess I can also see why others didn’t. From some of the other reviews I have read, it seems like it can be a little divisive.

The story is split into 3 parts. In the beginning, we meet Emmett Farmer, a young man recovering from a mysterious illness. Emmett lives with his family on their farm and since falling ill is unable to contribute to the running of the farm as effectively as before. He is sent to be an apprentice Book Binder, working with Seredith, an elderly woman who lives alone out in the marshes. So far, so mysterious. Bookbinding in this world is somewhat different to how we understand it however. In this reality, Binders capture unpleasant memories and store them away in the books they produce. Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a pretty cool concept for a story and the over the course of the story the mysteries hinted at are gradually unravelled.

In particular, I really enjoyed the romance in this novel and was 100% invested in it. I can see how some people might have found some aspects of the plot to be quite slow moving, but I enjoyed the novel’s quiet dignity and restrained pacing. The characters for the most part are morally grey, but all the more believable for it.

My only criticism would be that a lot of threads felt like they were left untied and unresolved. More could have been made of the moral issues around Binding. Seredith cared a lot about the morality around Binding so it seemed strange that it wasn’t really explored in Emmet’s story arc. It’s not possible to talk about some of the other untied threads without spoiling the story, but there were a few other things that niggled at me a bit.

Overall, I found this simply lovely. A beautifully written story to savour. The audiobook in particular is fantastic and well worth a listen.

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