Book Review: The Binding – Bridget Collins

The Binding - Bridget Collins

Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Publisher: Borough Press, HarperCollins
Publication date: Out now


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.

From the Borough Press website


When I saw the first flurries of people receiving copies of The Binding on Twitter I knew I had to have it. I fired off an email to the publicist and I soon had it in my hands. I did a proper “Squee!” and sat petting it for ages like a cat.

Anyway, I finished up what I was currently reading and then finally picked up The Binding. It took me SIX WEEKS to read. Not because it’s long or tricky, but for some reason I kept putting it down and not wanting to pick it back up. I’ve tried to explore why in my review, and it really wasn’t an easy process to go through!

Just to give a little more context, the book is split into three parts with two central characters, Emmett and Lucian. Part one is Emmett’s perspective in the present, part two is Emmett’s perspective in the past, and part three is Lucian’s perspective in the present.

The first part of the book drew me in. I wasn’t particularly drawn to Emmett, the protagonist of the story, but by a side character, Seredith. Seredith becomes Emmett’s Master when he takes up his apprenticeship. She’s strong and quietly fierce, not about to take any nonsense in a male-dominated world. We are also introduced to another character, De Havilland, who is probably the most loathsome and hateful man I’ve encountered in a book for a long time. Collins’ writing skill really comes through here as I had to put the book down because De Havilland made me so angry.

The second part of the book is focused on the developing relationship between Emmett and Lucian. There is so much tension in this part of the book. There is expectation, anxiety, fear, lust – I really felt like I was experiencing the story rather than just being a passive spectator. When I was reading I kept thinking “Wow, I wish I’d written that sentence” because Collins’ writing is so evocative.

“Time expanded and shrank to instants and eternities: a spasm of pleasure, sunlight on the ceiling, his fingers digging into my shoulder, half-darkness and the rich smell of wine that was older than we were.”

I think it was in the third part of the book things started to go wrong for me. I found the change of going from Emmett’s perspective to Lucian’s a shock. I felt confused as I still didn’t feel like I understood or knew Emmett, and he wasn’t coming back. It is a very slow burning conclusion. Slow, and honestly, arduous. Like Emmett, I did not feel like I got to know Lucian well, with the exception of the relationship with his sadistic father, which is brutal and harrowing to read.

Overall, this book left me frustrated. There were plotlines that took so long to develop and I became emotionally engaged and involved, for them to just disappear. For example, Seredith is essential to developing Emmett’s moral code as a Binder, but the fact that he is even a Binder or doing his apprenticeship is forgotten.

It’s a very interesting story and it was refreshing to read about love between two people of the same sex, but the plot was a bit all over the place.

Having said all that, one thing is clear – Collins can write. She can really, really write. If she ever publishes anything again I will most certainly read it.

“I tilt my head back. On the horizon, furthest from the moon, the sky is rich with stars.”

Many thanks to HarperCollins and Borough Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Order now

You can order The Binding from Book Depository. This is an affiliate link. That means, by ordering through this link, I take a small cut at no extra cost to you. This helps to maintain my blog.

Comment below

Have you read The Binding? Planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments below!

Two books

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