The Binding by Bridget Collins

Posted On 18 April 2019

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ThebindingThe Binding is a book that I’d been looking forward to picking up for quite some time.  It has an intriguing description that tells us this is “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.”  I really enjoyed this for the most part.  It’s a beautifully rendered love story with a historic backdrop and a low fantasy feel.

As the story sets off we make the acquaintance of Emmett a young man who works the land on his family’s farm.  We soon learn that Emmet has been unwell, he seems unable to complete his regular duties and is burdened with feelings of guilt and self-doubt.  Returning home from a day in the fields Emmett hears his parents arguing about a letter they’ve just received – a letter that summons Emmett to become an apprentice book binder.  Books are forbidden and the local binder is thought to be a witch – and yet, Emmett’s parents submit to the request and he’s taken off to begin his apprenticeship.  The first part of the story is really well done.  I found myself easily pulled into the pages and the way of life. There’s enough description of the time and place to create a vivid picture and the entire first part is loaded with tension and mystery.  There is a good deal of significant looks, brimming with meaning, and whispered conversations and just as I was about to explode with the mystery of it all we moved into the second part.

To be honest, it’s difficult to continue the review after this point without giving away spoilers.  Basically the second section of the book takes us back to an earlier period and shines a light on all the secrecy alluded to in the first part.  I loved these chapters.  They had a wild unkempt feeling that put me in mind of Wuthering Heights.  I could envisage the farm and the way of life, the secrets, the forbidden meetings.  Obviously I could see in which direction things were going to go but it all added to the tension and fear for the characters themselves.  Very evocative indeed.

The third section is the part that I struggled with a little and I’m not sure I can completely put my finger on why that is. These chapters take on a very dark and gothic feel, almost Machiavellian in the scheming and intrigue and packed with some pretty nasty characters.  I mean, in some respects I can see what the author was aiming for here and I absolutely love the idea of it.  The sense of despair, of things being too far out of control.  The difference in tempo moving the story out of the country and into the city, the sense of grime, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the exploitation.  It felt almost Dickensian in contrast to the Bronte feel of the first two parts. I guess, for me, it felt a little jarring and maybe a little over the top in terms of what was going on.  I think it could have been calmed down somewhat whereas as it was it felt a little scattered and chaotic.  I think if a little of the busyness had been stripped from this final third this could well have been a perfect read for me.

I can’t tell you too much more about the plot.  The central concept here is one of memories and the power they hold over a person.  It’s not something I’ve really ever considered before and this story definitely gave me some food for thought.

I really enjoyed Collins writing, I thought she had a lovely way with words and I enjoyed the historical feel.  I would say that the fantasy and magic behind the whole aspect of ‘book binding’ is very light and I wouldn’t say that I had a really strong understanding of the binding or how it works.  In fact, I would say that you probably just need to go with it and don’t look too hard for explanations.

I think given the nature of how this story is written readers will likely have very different experiences when they read this.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers love the third part and find the opening chapters a little too drawn out.  Overall, I had a good time with this.  I didn’t love the concluding chapters as much as I’d have liked but I found the first two parts of this very intriguing indeed and I confess that I read the whole story in two sittings I was so gripped.

I received a copy through Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



12 Responses to “The Binding by Bridget Collins”

  1. Tammy

    Glad you enjoyed this Lynn! It’s on my pile to read this month but I’m not sure I’ll get to it. I’m curious to see where I fall, after reading both yours and Mogsy’s reviews😊

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it lost a star for me because of the difference in style between the parts – I really liked the first two parts but was shocked by the final chapters. I think Mogsy liked it less and I can see that tbh, the first two parts are a little slow, the fantasy is minimal, but I did like the writing.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Moving, to quote your description, from a Bronte mood to a Dickensian background must indeed feel jarring, but still the premise sounds intriguing enough…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is an interesting premise and I liked the writing, I think the third part felt a little out of place but that’s just a personal whim.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh, this sounds really good and I’m very into forbidden love at the moment. 🙂 Have to go add to my TBR

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed this – although the three different parts can be a bit almost dramatic.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Yeah, I think you liked this slightly more than me. I agree that it’s a very mood-dependent read and it really depends on the reader’s take on each of the sections because they are so different.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, I wasn’t expecting it to be this style, the second part really took me by surprise but I ended up liking it – but the third part was a bit difficult to get to grips with.
      Lynn 😀

  5. waytoofantasy

    Glad you enjoyed this one even if it was a bit of an uneven read. Great review!

  6. April : My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Binding by Bridget Collins […]

  7. Best of the Best list : 2019 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Binding by Bridget Collins […]

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