A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE
Proclaimed as “truly spellbinding,” a “great fable” that “functions as transporting romance” by the Guardian, the runaway #1 international bestseller
"A rich, gothic entertainment that explores what books have trapped inside them and reminds us of the power of storytelling. Spellbinding.” — TRACY CHEVALIER
Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.
For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.
But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.
An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.
Collins's solid first adult novel (following several YA novels) is a haunted, Dickensian fantasia. At the story's outset, teenage Emmett is a farmer's son in an alternate England at an indeterminate point in the past whose mind is riddled with gaps due to an unspecified illness. He receives a letter that calls him for an apprenticeship with a bookbinder, Seredith, who's reputed to be a witch. Emmett quickly discovers that Seredith is not your run-of-the-mill bookbinder: she draws traumatic memories out of people's minds and hides them away in books, thereby removing the memories from their minds. The first client Emmett meets is a man named Lucian Darnay; their encounters unsettle and even enrage both of them, but neither knows why. Emmett eventually discovers there is a book with his name on it, and it holds an essential secret about him. The relationship between Emmett and Lucian plays out satisfyingly, but the novel suffers from portentous conversations and a few plot points that the characters don't realistically react to. Emmett is a YA protagonist, too sullen, reluctant, wrapped in victimhood. This is an enjoyable novel for readers of any age, but the story remains YA at its heart.