The Binding by Bridget Collins
Borough Press, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Binders are people with the power to remove someone’s memories by trapping them in the pages of the book. It is a sacred calling and should only be used when a memory is too great for the person to handle. But there are those who would use it for their own benefit and when Emmett, a binder’s apprentice, take a job at a binding company in the city, he enters this dark world of taking memories from unwilling subjects at the request of the wealthy elite. A binding at the house of one of the wealthiest men in the city, Emmett meets Darnay who is disgusted by Emmett’s profession and he reassesses his choices based on the uncomfortable feeling that there is something more personal to Darnay’s hatred. Is it possible the two men have met before and Emmett has forgotten? Can a person ever really lose a memory or will there always be a shadow on the heart of the pain that can’t be erased?
The Binding is told in three parts, two in Emmett’s voice and one in Darnay’s. The first two are well-paced, introducing us to a world where books are not read for pleasure and are treated with fear because of what they represent; true stories removed from someone’s memory. Emmett’s first mentor teaches him to be respectful of the trust between binder and bindee, she instils in him a sense of responsibility. When she dies, Emmett works for her son who has a very different approach and will take memories from servant girls of the abuse they have suffered at the hands of their employer over and over again until the girls are little more than empty husks. I won’t tell you what the second part is about because I want you to enjoy it as much as I did spoiler free.
My only complaint is with the third section which is Darnay’s. After the beautiful detail of the first two sections, this felt a little rushed as if Collin’s had been told she had a hard stop on the number of words she could have. However, the ending makes up for that. As with all good stories, at least the ones I prefer, there is no definite ending. We have a sense of what will happen next to the characters, but much of it is left to our imagination.
The Binding is one of those stories that grips you from the first page, keeps you up all night to get it finished, and then stays with you afterwards. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, The Binding is the exception to this rule. The story inside is as beautiful as the cover. A highly recommended read.