Discussing Bridget Collins’ The Binding
Warning: Spoilers Ahead. This is a short book discussion and not a book review. There will be spoilers in this article.
Bridget Collins’ The Binding was not at all what I expected, but a story that I unexpectedly loved – at least the love story part of the novel. Even though I enjoyed following the protagonist’s love story, I felt that there were some major flaws in this novel that one cannot ignore. Flaws that one would expect publishers and editors to pick up on. This is what I will discuss in this blog post.
A Quick Summary
Side note: I admit that I now regret never taking the “summary exercises” in high school seriously.
I best like to describe The Binding as a romance novel with a touch of folk magic. It follows the tale of the young Emmet Farmer, an unworldly and dedicated farmer’s boy, who lives in a world where books are deemed evil. After he suffers a mysterious illness he cannot keep up with his farm chores anymore. So, he gets sent away to live as an apprentice to the bookbinder, Seredith. Which, in Emmet’s world, is not an occupation anyone would choose for their children, but in this desperate time, their only option.
At first, it feels like an exile, but soon his place at Seredith starts to feel like home and his bond with the old woman grows stronger. Slowly, and incompletely, Emmet learns the basics of bookbinding, his interest in the craft prickling with curiosity. The craft of bookbinding is a magical one. The stories are not fictional, but rather painful memories taken from individuals who wish to rather forget. Each book is branded with the individual’s name, keeping their private memories hidden. After the unfortunate passing of Seredith, Emmet learns that there is a book with his name on it.
Emmet fights for the past he was forced to forget and tries to recover the love that was lost while battling the cruel abuse of bookbinding by those in power.
What I Loved
I must admit that I honestly enjoyed reading The Binding. There is a lot of criticism towards this book, which I mostly understand and support. However, the random romantic in me, found the love story exciting and beautiful.
We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm.― Bridget Collins, The Binding
At first, I wasn’t very impressed with the protagonist’s character. He seemed bland and somewhat one dimensional, but as the story continued, I found myself growing fond of him. The person he becomes (a change that happens in part one already) is one that I find lovable and easy to sympathise with.
Truthfully, the reason I could not put this book down was that I wanted to see Emmet’s happily ever after. Even though there are many facets to this story, all of which intrigued me immensely, in the end, the only part that hooked me and actually followed through from beginning to end, was Emmet’s love story. Forbidden love with mysterious and societal obstacles? How could I not be intrigued. Also, the chemistry between Emmet and Lucian is fantastically written. Subtle hints at affection as their relationship grows from friends to finally, lovers – brings out the Austen fangirl in me.
Now we get to the reason why I desperately wanted someone to discuss this book with. After the fluttering butterflies left and the romantic haze faded away, I realised that I was sitting with a lot of questions. I could not give the novel the great review I wanted to, because despite enjoying it a lot, there are too many unfinished storylines in this novel.
May your darkness be quiet and the light come sooner than you need― Bridget Collins, The Binding
The Book’s Summary
I believe one of the greatest reasons why readers might have been disappointed in this novel, was because of the summary on the back of the book. It portrays a slightly skewed version of what the book is truly about: Love. This novel is first and foremost a love story, and the rest is but possibilities of beautiful and exciting side plots to a wonderful novel idea.
However, the summary that comes with the book makes one believe that one is about to embark on a magical adventure with this great bookbinder that stores people’s memories – which to be fair, isn’t technically untrue. However, the plot definitely deviates from this back to the love story, and the adventure of bookbinding just ends up being a forgotten and incomplete storyline. The bookbinding, misuse of the craft by power-hungry tradesmen, the possibility of witches and magic – It is all but a tool to lead our lovers through an exciting adventure and help them reach their end destination.
Who is Seredith?
Another aspect I was extremely disappointed in, was the unsolved mystery of Seredith. I have so many questions with regards to her.
Firstly, is she just a bookbinder or is she a witch? Can she do more than just bind people’s memories into books? Which leads me to the second question, where does magic begin and end in this novel?
Whilst Emmet lives with Seredith, we get a glimpse at the possibility of a secret magical world. Yet, the moment she is out of Emmet’s life, that whole aspect of the story disappears. It is just Emmet trying to survive and rediscovering his lost memories.
I really appreciated Seredith’s process of teaching Emmet the craft of bookbinding, but Emmet didn’t even get past the first lesson, before she passed away. I am aware that it gave him an appreciation for good quality binding, and it gave him respect for the process. However, was that all that he was supposed to learn? Was there more that she would have (or even could have) taught him? Because it doesn’t really seem like he needed training beyond that, since his first bookbinding was such a success. Like boy is pro, ya’ll.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m the witch’s apprentice. Who the hell are you?”― Bridget Collins, The Binding
Binding Culture & Emmet’s Calling
Following on the previous point: It is stated multiple times that Emmet has a calling for bookbinding. Yet, we only really see him in action once (if I am not mistaken). He has no idea what to do, but he does it perfectly – which is probably what could happen when one is gifted in an area. However, that’s it. That is all we ever see of Emmet’s gift.
I would have loved to experience Emmet’s bookbinding journey: Both his skill and struggle. Which brings me to binding culture in general.
We get a glimpse into the culture and workings of magical and traditional bookbinding while Emmet lives with Seredith, but that is all we ever get: Just a glimpse. When he starts working for Seredith’s son we see a bit of the crueler side of bookbinding, and how Emmet struggles with the moral dilemma of his profession. Yet, these problems just “disappear” as he is about to face it and make a stand. The story shifts away from this massive societal issue with bookbinding, and focusses solely on the love story.
It would have been amazing to go into the world of what it means to be a bookbinder, how Emmet takes on this calling of his and how he fights the misuse of bookbinding.
It is safe to say that this book leaves a lot of loose ends behind. I still have many more questions: What happened to Emmet’s family? Did they ever accept him and his love for Lucian? What happened between Seredith and her son? Why did they have a strained relationship, and why was her son corrupted by greed?
The Binding just feels unfinished. It had all the elements of a good story, but it just didn’t follow through.
Despite all these holes in the storyline, I would still recommend The Binding. However, I’d recommend it with an open mind and taking into account that there are some flaws. I honestly feel like the writer was onto a great story (and she does write so beautifully), but she just needed a few edits and tweaks to bring the story as a whole to a complete and beautiful ending.
For a secondhand copy of The Binding contact Liberty Books for an enquiry.
P.s. Want to know what I do with all the inspiration I get from my books? Have a look here.