The Binding

by Bridget Collins

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LoveReading Expert Review of The Binding

Truth, memory and the extremes folk will go to to keep their secrets hidden - this spellbinding historical yarn gleams with love, lust, intrigue and lies.

Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”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 more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls.

The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion. 

Joanne Owen

The Binding Synopsis

Imagine you could erase your grief.

Imagine you could forget your pain.

Imagine you could hide a secret.


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.

THE BINDING is an unforgettable, magical novel: a boundary-defying love story and a unique literary event.

What To Read After The Binding

A Flying Fish Whispered
The Long Song
The Light Between Oceans
The Bureau of Second Chances

The Binding Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

A beautiful book inside and out. I need more - a sequel, a spin-off, anything!

First things first - this book is stunning. It took me a while to start reading it because I was too busy staring at all the details on the cover. Then, I read with incredible care to preserve my copy as much as possible. Next I loved the concept. The idea that books are illicit, powerful and evil things. Not too far from the truth when you think of the power of knowledge and imagination and the freedom granted by both.

Being born and bred in Yorkshire, I loved the Castleford setting, however I couldn't quite work out if any of the landmarks were based on real places (the New House mainly) and there wasn't any use of dialect in the speech (that I noticed) to place them in the North. However this is something I thought about after finishing the book and not at all a distraction while reading.

The plot moves quite fast to begin with, but you soon get sucked in to the story, eager to find out what all of the missing pieces are. The book is separated in to three parts: Emmett, the past, and Lucian. Which gives you a wider perspective and shows the authors capabilities to do a spin-off style sequel for the characters if she chose (I wish she will - I'd love to know what happens next and what happened to Emmet's sister Alta and his family. Possibly a prequel for the Crusades and Seredith's full story?! - she was taken away too soon).

The flashback section is heart-breaking. Although I guessed the "twist / revelation" early I was not dissappointed and so happy when I was proved right!!! It actually made me stop reading and go back to earlier sections and re-read with fresh eyes. I spent the last part of the book wishing and praying for a happy conclusion, dreading the possibility that it could all end badly. I do think the earlier section could have been more in-depth - Emmet learning about being a Binder and figuring out the trade. But I think that makes this book all the more perfect for a spin-off or sequel that could spend more time on it.

Overall I found this book perfect. Beautiful inside and out. And I need more!!

Charlotte Walker

What a spell-binding book this is! Plus its location of Castleford is not far from where I live in West Yorkshire, so had added interest for me.

What a spell-binding book this is! Plus its location of Castleford is not far from where I live in West Yorkshire, so had added interest for me.
I thought the book was very original, on a subject I had not come across before, it was well written and a page turner too! The book so interested me - I read every single word! No speed reading here.
The quotation at the beginning of the book is irresistible -

Imagine you could ease your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.

Who would not want that?

I am looking forward to reading Bridget's work again in another book.

Marjorie Lacy

The Binding is something special, a book that will stay with me. It's complex, clever and absolutely stunning with a powerful love story at its heart.

Oh, this wonderful book. I was bowled over by the complexity and the cleverness of this story.

The Binding begins with us following Emmett Farmer as he becomes the apprentice to a very old bookbinder called Seredith. She lives in the marshes, well away from the farm where Emmett's parents and sister, Alta, live.

These are no ordinary books though. These are people's memories, sucked out of them so they can no longer remember. The idea is to take away the bad memories but it can be misused, memories stolen for titillation, for others amusement. However, those with a true vocation, like Emmett, do it right, not for profit. The catalyst for parts two and three of the book is when Emmett finds a book with his own name on and I must admit that I found part two the most beguiling.

The whole of The Binding is beautifully written. The prose is perfect and I was thoroughly absorbed by it. I loved Emmett as he's such a kind person, struggling with his feelings at first. All of the characters are so well-drawn, so perfectly formed.

And that story. It's so incredibly clever. I am in awe of Bridget Collins and the story that her mind has conjured up. The most powerful part of this book is a love story though, and it's stunning in every way.

The Binding is something special, a book that will stay with me. It's going to be huge in 2019.

Nicola Smith

An emotionally involving read with plenty of twists and turns that makes you think about the nature of memory and fiction.

Imagine the possibility of ridding yourself of your worst memories – having them removed from your mind and bound up in a book, which is kept safely stored away. A world in which books are therefore special, rare commodities and the stories they contain are real.

In this world created by Bridget Collins, a parallel world set in something like our Victorian era, this gift is used by most “binders” for good – to help mend broken hearts, forget tragedies – but like any such gift, is also used for darker purposes: to cover up crimes and indiscretions and for pure titillation, with innocent people’s bound books being sold for financial gain.

As the novel begins, Emmett, a simple, likeable farmer’s son who is recovering from a mysterious illness and wants nothing more than to be well enough to run his family’s farm, is drawn into the mysterious world of the binders by being called to be an apprentice. As he discovers more, he is drawn into a world of intrigue that is more involved with his own than he realises.

Told in three parts, with an effective point-of-view shift in the last, this is an emotionally involving read with plenty of twists and turns, and one that makes you think about the nature of memory and fiction.

Alison Layland

The Binding by Bridget Collins, a brilliant book, unusual subject with several different topics explored, a great read!

As an avid reader I started it straightaway and was totally engrossed very quickly. The story of a lad who becomes an apprentice to a 'Bookbinder' whom many considered akin to a witch. Emmett explores his own sexuality with Lucian, not sure that he should be feeling the way he does. The black magic surrounding the binding is considered illegal and is kept underground. His family are so important to him and he strives to protect his sister at all costs at times to his own detriment.

This book is written in the first person which I don't normally like, but it works, and Emmett's feelings come pouring out onto the written page, great descriptions and I felt his pain. The chapters are not too long, but you won't want to stop at the breaks.

I'm so glad I got to read this book, it is not something I would have chosen myself but it has taught me to consider other genres other than those I am used to reading.


Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780008272142
Publication date: 26/12/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780008272111
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Format: Hardback

Publication date: 10/01/2019
Format: Audiobook

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About Bridget Collins

Bridget Collins was born in 1981 in Kent, England. She always wanted to be an actor, and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after studying English at King's College, Cambridge, but after she graduated from drama school she found herself starting to write a novel as a way to distract herself when she wasn't working - and discovered that she loved it... Her first published novel, The Traitor Game, won the Branford Boase Award and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Since then she has published six more novels for teenagers. The Binding, her first adult novel, ...

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