I started reading The Binding by Bridget Collins, not knowing a lot about its plot. I only knew that the main character is a binder and that in the world created by the author, the process of binding a book is some kind of magic. I heard some positive opinions and saw many people reading this book on Tube during their daily commute. I decided to finally give it a try.
I was disappointed.
It’s not a bad book. The author’s writing style is mesmerising. It just wasn’t what I expected.
It starts as a story of Emmett Farmer, a teenager working on his father’s farm. He is recovering from a mysterious illness that kept him in and out of darkness and nightmares for almost a year. As he gets ready to return to his daily chores, a letter arrives that will change his life forever. The local bookbinder is asking for Emmett to become her apprentice. Moreover, Emmett finds out that his sickness is known as binder’s fever and affects only those born to work as bookbinders. The profession is despised and feared as binders are believed to use magic to trap a person’s soul inside a book. But how much of this is just prejudice?
The beginning is truly promising. There’s a mystery, a secret kept from the main character by his family, an old lady living on the marshes… But still, instead of the tale of love for books, I anticipated I got a world where books are taboo. What begins as Emmet Farmer’s journey to become a binder quickly turns into a teenage drama from a gay romance section. Which would be fine if it wasn’t such a slow burn. I have a feeling that the novel would benefit from cutting down a hundred pages. Maybe even two. There are too many detailed events that don’t bring much to the story. Also, the main characters seem a bit flat and become overwhelmed by Alta— Emmett’s younger sister, who is well-written.
Overall, I cannot say that I didn’t like it, but it is definitely not one of my favourites. I rate this book at *** 3 out of 5 stars.