In the vein of Diane Setterfield and Natasha Pulley, The Binding is rich immersive, spellbinding storytelling at its best.
Emmett Farmer is summoned by a master binder, Seredith, to leave his farming life and become her apprentice. But this is no ordinary type of bookbinding. Binding is a feared craft that creates suspicion in the community; it enables someone to erase a set of memories, secreting their unwanted knowledge away into a book unique to them. Not as a novel, but as a true story unique to them, binding their memories to the page.
Emmett learns what it means to bind someone’s memories and how high the cost can be. Because memories have value not just to their owners but to others…and they are prepared to pay handsomely for them. And if a book is destroyed, the memories are returned to their owner all in one emotional moment.
This is a thought-provoking novel with genuine emotional depth. The character names feel almost Dickensian, in that they have obviously been lovingly crafted to suit each character, in true storytelling style.
My one quibble is that there is a significant shift of tone and narrative halfway through the novel; it moves from a tale of fantasy to one of forbidden love. I am not complaining, as I enjoyed the second half just as much, but after finishing The Binding, I felt as if I had read two novels not one. And please don’t let that put you off, the two halves do complement each other neatly.
This is going to be a huge hit in 2019 – I read it in proof format (thank you, NetGalley) and can’t wait to get my hands on a printed copy; in deference to its binding subject-matter, the cover is gorgeous!