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.
I really wasn’t sure about this book. It’s unlike a lot of books I read, especially the historical aspect being a big no-no for me usually. But with it being the Fiction Book of the Month where I work and my colleague adoring it, I decided to give it a go. I also had a niggling feeling it might have underlying tones of The Starless Sea about it, and I loved that book so much!
I wasn’t wrong about it feeling like The Starless Sea. The Binding had the same enchanting, sprawling writing style as Erin Morgenstern does in both of her books which I love so much. But I didn’t feel quite so mystified with The Binding.
‘Memories,’ she said, at last. ‘Not people, Emmett. We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember.
This book is written in three parts. The first part didn’t draw me in as half as much as I would have liked it too. It was slow and plodding and somewhat problematic, with the protagonist, Emmett, being kept in the dark about a lot of things. The location was vivid and witchlike, and was the main aspect I focused on in this portion of the story.
The second part reeled me in like a fly trapped in a spiders web. With a suddenness that was jarring at first, we are thrown into a much different time, and much different situation. The second part is full of lust, desire and forbidden love. I adored it. This part of the book is the one that captured my heart and left me feeling completely enthralled with the characters and their stories.
The third part was again, much different. We jump ahead, before the first part, and look back on the story. I didn’t enjoy this part as much as the second, but I still felt trapped with my desire to find out what happens to these characters.
Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any harm. That’s all books are’
Overall, this book is enchanting and beautiful, and I can see why it seems to be so well loved. For the most part, it didn’t capture my imagination as much as I would have hoped, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot all the same. If the entire book had enchanted me as much as the second part did, it would have been a solid 5 stars. But due to the first, and sometimes the third parts letting it down a little, I’m going to go with 4.
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽