Borough Press 26th December 2019 (Paperback)
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.
I was invited to read this book as part of an Instagram ‘readalong’ between Christmas and New Year to mark the paperback publication date. My thanks to Tandem Collective for organising the readalong and Borough Press for providing me with a copy of the book – a beautiful hardback no less!
The Binding is a beautifully written book, divided into 3 distinct parts. Set sometime in the past in a vague fictional location, a time before technology and a simpler time, travel was on foot or by carriage and community was determined by proximity. The work of the Binders is known but sinister, a luxury of the affluent – an opportunity for poor, even despicable conduct – safe in the knowledge that all evidence can be erased and bound into a book that can be locked away forever.
The pace starts slow with Emmett’s story living and working in the Bindery as an apprentice. As the reader we learn with Emmett about Binding, the notion of releasing someone from the ‘difficult’ memories, with their consent and keeping them safe in a book. Later in part 2 we go back to Emmett’s life prior to his apprenticeship and the story continues to develop, providing depth to the first part of the story. The final part of the book is after Emmett discovers his own book and is told from a different perspective to parts 1 and 2. The book is written in the first person narrative and so the change of narrator in part 3 takes a bit of getting used to but works very well.
I enjoyed this book a lot, aspects of the story were very sinister and thought provoking and different moral issues arose throughout the story. Without giving anything away, obvious questions relate to whether it would ever be ok, morally to erase parts of someone’s memory – this was cleverly explored through different Binders and I found my view influenced as the book progressed. Part love story, definitely for fans of historical fiction although the time is unspecified, part fantasy, although I say this loosely as I am not a fan and I would not want to put anyone off! The notion of someone’s memory being erased and bound into a book reads as very authentic and the writing is captivating.
I have the hardback copy of this book and I mention this simply because in keeping with the story it is an incredibly beautiful book. Check my Instagram feed for pictures if you want to see it. I highly recommend this book, it is an original, very well written piece of fiction. Let me know in the comments if you have read The Binding and what you thought.