4 star, YA

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Binding by Bridget Collins

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.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Binding is an alternate world where some chosen individuals are born to be binders, a special type of person who is able to “bind” a person’s memories, releasing the original memory from the original holder. This story follows Emmett Farmer, who is called to work as a binder. Not dissimilar to a coming of age story, we follow Emmett as he embarks on the journey to learn this sacred trade – not looked upon highly by all. To some it is evil, a black magic that only witches perform, and to others, a means to an end, whether to forget a painful memory or for something more sinister.

I’ll admit it, I actually randomly picked this off the shelf at Chapter’s one day because it seemed interesting – and boy was it interesting! This led to me getting hooked on the first 100 pages, and then forced me to find a way to finish the rest of the story. This world is just so darned interesting. Like the brief suggests, the world is reminiscence of 19th-century England. The main difference is of course, the art of bookbinding. Now, as if I wasn’t already interested enough in the art of bookbinding in real life, Collins put an extra spin on it, and I almost wish that her imagined bookbinding it were a real art.

At first glance it’s harmless enough, what’s wrong with forgetting a bad memory? Feels like most people in the modern day world can agree to a thing (or two) that would be better left forgotten. How much easier then would it be to just start over after that? Quickly you discover that just like any tool or technology out there, it can be monetized, taken advantage of, and even abused. A tool is just a tool, depending on how you use it. This story follows Emmett as he transitions from being a common farmboy into a revered (or outcasted) bookbinder. He meets many different people in his journey, and most have a differing opinion on the bookbinding profession. He travels between the countryside where he grew up as well as the big city, and just like in real life, the difference between the two settings is stark.

The story really takes a wild turn when he discovers certain names on books, which threatens to reveal secrets of the past meant to be hidden (forgotten?) forever. Collins does a fantastic job leading us through this journey, and really explores the value of memories, now that they can be detached from the original owners. The cost of having something so valuable ripped from you will certainly leave behind a type of scar if not done properly. Which memories are worth keeping, and what is the value in forgetting?

Whew! I really enjoyed this book, and also quickly ate it all up in one day after my initial taste of it at Chapters. The themes that are explored are extremely fascinating, and you quickly find yourself on the emotional journey with Emmett, ready to face the very interesting world that Collins has built.

Overall Recommendations:

The Binding follows a farmboy, Emmett, as his whole life changes when he is called to the sacred art of bookbinding – or the taking of one’s memories and sealing it in book form. This novel truly explores the importance and value of human memory, as well as the whole concept of a book in general. Just what should and shouldn’t be forgotten? And how does one determine the value of a memory? This concept of memory and bookbinding certainly had me spellbound, and wishing that it were real. If you have any interest in this concept, or love a realistic world with just a hint of magic, this may be the book for you!

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