The Binding by Bridget Collins
Published by Harper Collins

BRIDGET Collins’s work will be featured alongside 11 other acclaimed authors of gothic and historical fiction in a collection of stories coming this year entitled The Winter Spirits: Ghostly Tales For Frosty Nights.

In anticipation of this release, I was reminded of a novel that has stayed with me for years. I read The Binding the very day my friend returned it to the library as she’d been telling me about it all week and I was afraid someone else would get to it before me.

It was with this excitement that I came across a story so memorable and captivating not only for the twists of its plot or rich and clever writing style but also for the value it placed on books as a source of magic.

That is exactly what it was for me, and the reason I sent friends and family members to their local libraries or bookshops in a chain of sharing in pure joy, a conversation topic for months after the final page had been read.

The Binding appears to be set in a world like our own but in the past, however, this is not quite the case. Most people have come to fear or even hate the process of book-binding because here, the stories contained within are not fiction but memories.

Those blessed (or perhaps cursed) with the talent are able to magically bind the memories of people into books, whether that is only a short period of time or most of a life, relieving that client’s mind of whatever they don’t wish to remember.

This power is dangerous as consent can be forged by those with nefarious reasons to want an enemy’s memories to be lost.

It comes as a shock to the Farmer family when their teenage son Emmett receives the call to become a bookbinder. Despite their disdain for the craft, his parents and sister have no choice but to let him attempt to understand his talent and so he is permitted to take on a position as an apprentice to an experienced binder.

As he slowly learns the skills of his unexpected but all-consuming calling, Emmett comes to realise that every day, he is surrounded by secrets – and this curiosity leads him on a journey that twists the novel into something entirely new.

Upon discovering a book with his name on it, it becomes clear that there is no turning back until he learns the parts of himself that have been locked away, no matter what the consequences.

It is from this point that what at first seems to be the story of a young man on the edge of an intriguing concept becomes much more.

With a whirlwind moment of travel into memories repressed, the breath is stolen from the reader and both we and Emmett become so intertwined with the plot that stepping away or closing the book becomes impossible.

There is something for every reader, those who love historical fiction, magical realism and LGBT romance – and especially those who love a slow burning mystery. Emmett’s story, ultimately, is about agency and the power in the most painful and happiest memories.