Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
“”It’s a sacred calling Emmett. To have another person’s memory entrusted to you…To take the deepest, darkest part away from them and keep it safe forever. To honour it, to make it beautiful, even though nobody else will see it.””
The Binding has been floating around bookstagram and bookshops for a while, so when it was chosen as the March pick for the Two Amy’s Book Club, I was most certainly intrigued! The premise is so interesting – I was instantly drawn to the originality of it, (and also to the STUNNING hardback edition in Waterstone’s). The concept of The Binding is that the protagonist, Emmett, lives in a world where books have one purpose: to bind the memories you want to forget. Emmett is recovering from a illness which nearly killed him, and when he and his family come to terms with the fact that he isn’t physically strong enough to take over his father’s farm, they send him away to live with a book binder called Seredith. Book binding is a suspicious business, and a lot of people, including Emmett’s family, don’t trust the industry at all. Nevertheless, Emmett goes to learn the ways of a binder in order to make a living. He experiences all kinds of people arriving at Seredith’s house, desperate to forget a horror in their past, and she obliges, locking away their memories in a vault, hidden away in her house. Emmett absorbs Seredith’s wisdom as he tries to learn what it takes to be a binder, but when he discovers a book with his name on the spine, he will stop at nothing to uncover the truth of his past.
The concept of book binding is SO fascinating. Not only is it interesting to see how the characters in the book use it in their society, but also to question how people in real life would use binding, and abuse it. Right from the beginning, I wondered how Emmett had been affected by binding, and what could possibly be in his past which needed to be hidden from him.
I think what the book does well is question our own authority to decide what should and shouldn’t be remembered by those whose acts, or behaviour, is deemed too unacceptable by society, and in turn, allows those who are most fortunate to manipulate those around them to forget the God-awful sins they commit – or in some cases, not God-awful sins, but rather things which, should they come to be known, would ostracise that person. Certainly, Collins does not shy away from the truth that, if book binding were real, it would be horrendously abused by those with affluence (as is the unfortunate truth with many powerful things).
The problem with this book, was that it was unfortunately quite boring. For something which has such an interesting concept, I was surprised with how dull the storyline actually was. Emmett’s character did somewhat develop, but I was never invested in his survival. However, I’m also struggling to put my finger on what it was exactly which did not work. I think in part, it was probably due to the fact it it was quite long, and was mostly just building up to the last 50 pages or so. This, coupled with the fact that the pacing never quite got going, just made the book drag a little.
Overall, this book was lacking in excitement and any real threat. Yes, there were snippets of palpable danger, and the whole book is peppered with dark and cruel moments, from some characters so twisted, that it makes you grateful they’re not real. But all in all, I wanted to escape into this novel and experience some magic, some trepidation, but feel an overwhelming sense that the human ability to remember all the love and pain, fear and excitement, should not be something that can be taken from us, and unfortunately, I just never did.