Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.

THE BINDING is an unforgettable, magical novel: a boundary-defying love story and a unique literary event.

The Binding is Bridget Collins first foray into adult literature and with this beautifully imagined, yet often disturbing novel, she certainly does not disappoint. However she’s done such a good job that it’s very hard to review this book without giving away some major plot points;  I shall do my best to summarise my thoughts without spoilers!

Emmett Farmer is a young farmer’s lad who has been suffering from a mysterious sickness. Very suddenly, we discover that he is to be sent away from his family, ending his life on the farm, to become a Binder’s apprentice. Emmett knows nothing of what Binders do, except that it has something to do with books – which, Emmett has been told in no uncertain terms, are bad things that he must stay away from. Desperately unhappy at the thought of leaving his parents and sister, Alta, Emmett riles against the decision, but eventually accepts the will of his family and tries to settle into his new life.

Working with the old Binder, Seredith, Emmett learns that all existing books are made from memories – extracted from a living person and bound between the pages of a book. As a Binder, this will be his future – however he is unsettled by the whole concept. Desperate people go to Binders to have upsetting memories removed to allow them to move on in life and to some extent he understands that, but what about the rich and privileged men who provide a stream of frightened and abused women to the Binder’s door with the sole purpose of covering their nefarious behaviour? Add to those the people who are having experiences purely to sell them to be made into a bawdy tale so they can make a fast buck – is that something Emmett can live with being a part of?

It actually might not be an issue for long – after a horrific event turns Emmett’s new life upside down, he is forced into a new life where he happens upon someone from his past. This person triggers something in Emmett, and shows him something that changes the way he thinks about everything…and ultimately leads him onto a completely different path to the one he thought he would be following. It’s a dangerous and confusing path, but also one full of forbidden pleasures and feelings he has never experienced before.

Although the  novel is based around the concept of binding – which is clever and exciting, it’s actually the relationships that made this novel for me. Intense and beautiful, hurtful and vicious all at once, it’s a joy to invest in.

Many Thanks to Harper Collins and Netgalley for an ARC of this beautiful book in return for an honest review –  it was an absolute pleasure!