- The Binding by Bridget Collins
The binding is a highly original, beautifully descriptive novel that serves to immerse you in an alternate historical world where memories, distasteful and painful, can be gently teased away and bound securely into the pages of highly coveted, richly decorated books. In our world, where books are a treasured source of pleasure and knowledge, the concept that they are produced at the expense of someone’s mind, and arguably their soul, is imaginative and intriguing.
We are introduced to this world through the eyes of Emmett Farmer, exiled to an isolated marshland with only Seredith for company, an aged binder that sees in Emmett something he does not yet comprehend. We share in his acute disorientation, a feeling that is magnified by a deep-seated sense that something is missing, an absence that is woven throughout the opening chapters. Although this creates a desire to read on and soak up the hints delicately scattered through the narrative, it is at the sacrifice of the characters themselves who at first seem somewhat flat and unrounded. His family appears hard and two-dimensional as we, like Emmett, lack the understanding of what drives their actions. It also creates a prolonged, slow-paced beginning that may put some readers off.
However, the much-awaited, pivotal point in the novel quickly remedies this.
The pace quickens as the characters, so lovingly penciled by Collins, become flushed with colour and the story blossoms into the engrossing tale of forbidden passion and enduring love that it truly is. The mysterious backdrop of the dark, macabre world they inhabit also unfolds beautifully, proving the perfect stage on which to explore how the practice of binding can be wielded and exploited with stunning cruelty.
Although certain characters do persist in an underdeveloped state, and aspects such as the binding process and allusions to witchcraft are not fully explored, these prove redundant as you become embroiled in a love affair between two delightfully contrasting characters. The descriptive elements are also spellbinding, and you will find yourself reading over sentences to fully appreciate their composition. This is a unique novel and you will be rewarded for venturing into a story that is crafted with such evident love, dedication and imagination.
Review by Kate Vickers