HomeReviewsFictionReview: The Binding

Review: The Binding

The Binding

Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Genre: Literary fiction
Page Count: 448
Published by: William Morrow & Company
Date Published: April 16, 2019
You can find a copy here: Bookshop.org


What if unhappy memories could be taken away? What if you could simply forget every awful thing that has happened to you? Would you do it? How would it change you?

In The Binding, Bridget Collins explores these thought provoking concepts in a gothic, alternate-reality 19th Century England. Binders – considered heretics, witches, and worse – have the ability to remove unwanted memories and bind them into books. But Emmet Farmer isn’t aware of this craft, so when a letter arrives summoning him away to learn the craft of binding from an elderly bookbinder, he’s flummoxed.

His whole life he has been drawn to books for unknown reasons, under Seredith’s tutelage, he begins to understand his talent and calling. But while Seredith views binding as an artisan, there are others, such as her dark, dangerous nephew, who use these memories to dark ends.

When Seredith dies, Emmet is once again adrift in a new, unknown world. That of cities, evil deeds, dark secrets … including discovering a book with his name on it.


This is truly a lush reading experience, one that requires the reader to slow down and enjoy a plot that is going to slowly reveal its secrets while somewhat drowning you in delicious description. If character driven, slow plots, historical fiction, and dark subject matter aren’t your preference, this read will be a struggle.

While I was mesmerized by the reflective and melancholy writing of this piece, I do wish the book had continued in the vein that it began: the story of a born binder learning the craft from the elderly Seredith. Split into three parts, I unfortunately liked each part less and less. I still enjoyed the overall experience and story – and highly recommend the audiobook if you are looking for a delectably calming narrator – but was slightly disappointed with the direction the narrative took.

The story itself is surprisingly dark – I’d throw up a major rape, sexual assault, and homophobia flag here – and, while it fit with the tone of the story … a dark gothic narrative … it still didn’t make it easy to take. The characters themselves were very authentic and well voiced. The concepts of memories, how they define us, what would happen if some were removed, how that changes a person, how it can damage a person as much as alleviate pain, was very gripping and explored incredibly well.

Overall this is a lushly descriptive, deliberately paced, dark gothic story that was thought-provoking, absorbing, and, at times, quite arresting. The story goes into very dark and disturbing territory that is difficult for the reader – especially one triggered by sexual assault and rape – but rather than for shock value it does serve to continue an immediacy and conflict to an otherwise slow plot. While I do wish the story could have continued as it began – a story about binding memories – the conversation on how we are the sum of our memories and experiences and how we would be a hollow faction of ourselves if they were removed – was quite interesting. I really enjoyed this forbidden love story with its dynamic characters and overall atmosphere of gloom and melancholy. A leisurely paced, bewitching love letter to memories, stories, and the people who tell them.

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