The Binding

The Binding


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 that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to 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.

Our Review

Let me start by saying The Binding is a beautiful book, it is definitely a case of judging a book by its cover. In this situation is it also a case of judging a book by its pages which are purple.

I had heard a lot about The Binding before I chose to request it for review, but the publication date arrived prior to approval so I bought it anyway because I was convinced I would like it and I did. A few days after buying the book I received the kindle version for review.

The Binding is a real treat for book lovers with its unique and captivating story Bridget Collins has created the kind of book I wish I could write. This is the second book this year that I have known without a doubt will be in my top books of the year list. I can’t put into words how much I loved it.

Emmet Farmer is working in the fields alone when his sister Alta comes to find him. He was finishing up because he was slower than the others due to a recent mystery illness.

“I dropped into a crouch, catching my breath at the pain in my bones. Better than it had been – better than the splintery, sickening spasms that had come unpredictably for months – but I still felt as brittle as an old man. I clenched my jaw. I was so weak I wanted to cry; but I wasn’t going to, I’d die first, even if the only eye on me was the full, fat harvest moon.”

When he and Alta get back to the house they overhear their parents arguing about a letter from ‘the binder’ wanting them to send Emmet to them as an apprentice.

Emmet is confused about why his mum seem happy to send him to the binders as an apprentice and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

“I couldn’t put it into words: the swift change of subject if someone even mentioned a book, the shiver of distaste at the word, the look on their faces.”

Emmet’s pa tells him he is to leave the next day and he seems pleased to get him out of the house.

“You go, boy. Heaven knows you’ve brought enough trouble on this house.”

Via Emmet’s memories we learn that books are seen as sordid things, things to be avoided at all cost.

“Once, at school, someone had muttered something about old Lord Kent having a library: but when everyone snickered and rolled their eyes I didn’t see why that was so bad. I’d read a book: whatever was wrong with him, I was the same. Under everything, deep inside me, the shame was still there.”

Emmet leaves the next morning with little acknowledgement and is taken to the binder who lives deep in the marshes. Seredith is an old lady shrouded in superstitions and suspicion, known as a witch.

Seredith was my favourite character in this book. Underneath her tough exterior she is kind and compassionate, but she is also blunt and brutally honest. She was also a useful tool in introducing the reader to the craft of book binding and the negativity surrounding it.

'Think I’ve got this old without knowing what people say about me? About us.’ I looked away, but she went on as if she hadn’t noticed. ‘Your parents kept books away from you, didn’t they? And now you don’t know what you’re doing here.’

‘You asked for me. Didn’t you?’


She seemed not to hear. ‘Don’t worry, lad. It’s a craft like any other. And a good one. Binding’s as old as the alphabet – older. People don’t understand it, but why should they?’ She grimaced. ‘At least the Crusade’s over. You’re too young to remember that. You’re good fortune.'

Seredith is a binder with scruples and teaches Emmet a set of guidelines she abides by. Through Emmet we learn that it is wrong to sell books. Books are made for the people they are about not for readers. The people who came to binders (the bound) come to have their memories taken away because they are terrible or cause them too much pain. It is meant to be a once in a lifetime situation. She also teaches him that books need to be protected at all costs.

“Books should be beautiful,’ Seredith said. ‘No one sees, that’s not the point. It’s a way to honour people – like grave-goods, in olden times.’

Seredith is out in the marshes because she chooses to let anyone who wants to come to her to be bound not just the rich. The only people she turns away are those she knows will carry on doing terrible things, those whose memories don’t deserve to be absolved.

Lucian Darnay is a rich and entitled young man who we first meet when he comes to Seredith to be bound. Emmet is the one who sees him first and feels uncomfortable because of the hatred in Lucian’s gaze.

Much later in the story we learn what is behind the hatred in Lucian’s gaze.

Emmet initially finds it hard to adapt to his roll as a binder’s apprentice and to let go of the prejudices surrounding the craft. This leads to him saying some hurtful things to Seredith.

‘You steal their souls.’ My voice cracked. ‘No wonder they’re afraid of you. You lure them here and suck them dry, you take what you want and send them away with nothing. That’s what a book is, isn’t it? A life. A person. And if they burn, you die’…

‘Memories,’ she said, at last. ‘Not people, Emmet. We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any harm. That’s all books are.’

Later in the book we are introduced to a decidedly unscrupulous binder by the name of De Haviland. He disregards the sets of rules Seredith imposes on herself and mocks her for them. He works only for the rich and is more than willing to have people come back to him as many times as they want as long as he is being paid.

I immediately took a dislike to him when he was introduced to the novel and I am sure many other readers did.

Emmet feels nothing but contempt for de Havilland and shows it until Seredith warns him that he may need him in the future. She turns out to be right and Emmet ends up via a set of circumstances becoming his apprentice.

His time with de Havilland introduces him to the side of binding that perpetuates its negative image. For example, the poor who use their memories as currency continuously and have their memories bought by binders and sold for people to read. He is also exposed to those who encourage or force others to have their memories wiped for their own gain.

During the course of the story, we learn more about Emmet’s past and his mysterious illness. There is much more I could say about this rich novel but I don’t want to put too many spoilers in this review.

I will say that The Binding has found a place among my favourite books of all time.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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