Friday, 28 June 2019

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Emmett thought his life was all planned out - that he'd stay in the village where he was born, be a farmer like his father, marry one of the local girls. Then a letter arrives announcing that he's to be taken on as an apprentice Binder. Working with books is a dubious profession. There's a lot of superstition and fear surrounding them, as they aren't books as we know them. Instead they're repositories for people's unwanted memories. Lost someone you've loved? Done something dreadful that you want to keep hidden from the world? A Binder will erase your memories and store them in a book.
Emmett apparently has a talent for the work, but it also transpires that he has memories bound into a book - and when chance leads him to re-awaken those memories, his world changes completely.

If you've ever seen The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you'll immediately spot similarities; central to both stories is the ability to erase memories, specifically those relating to an unfortunate love affair. But, whereas Eternal Sunshine has a contemporary setting, and some computer thingamajig erases memories, The Binding is set in an alternative world with an early Victorian factories feel to it, and the act of 'binding' is more like a magical skill.
In this alternative world, there are no novels. Practical textbooks are considered acceptable, but fiction doesn't exist. Books are lifted whole from a person's memories, wiping away sorrow or pleasure, and  should then be safely stored away, never to be read by anyone, but there are always the unscrupulous practitioners willing to corrupt the art of Binding in various ways, to profit from hiding dark secrets through Binding, or to sell the subsequent book for others' enjoyment.

The world building is brilliant, the story-telling wonderful, and, although when I'd reached the end I began to think that maybe some of the ideas don't quite add up, it doesn't matter, because while reading I was swept along by the story.

In short, i loved it, and it will probably end up in my picks of the year!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Harper Collins (The Borough Press)
Genre - Adult fiction, fantasy

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