REVIEWED BY JAMES PHILLIPS
Bridget Collins (The Borough Press: 2018)
My pick for the 2010’s book review is The Binding by Bridget Collins. Released at the latter end of the decade, it is a novel that you may have heard of, or even read, but if you haven’t then you have a treat in store.
The premise of the novel revolves around ‘binders’ being able to completely extract unwanted memories from people and bind them into books. Following the story of a young apprentice Emmett, the story unfolds following his journey of having the gift, being able to transmit trauma, secrets, heartache and pain to the page. A deliberate forgetting. The reader explores his coming-of- age, his thoughts and beliefs in a world that threatens to tear him in two, and conflict with those who exploit selfishly and cruelly, to further their own gain.
We, as members of the Suffolk Book League, cherish and revere books. We absorb language into our beings, transported time and time again by novels, poems, or any word put to the page, and listen, entranced, as the skilled, esteemed and passionate reveal to us their own experience and recollections of writing their darlings. But how different is this world to the one that Collins paints. Instead, books aren’t cherished, but deemed evil, the work of witches, condemned to be buried, hidden and not to be touched. Collectors aren’t revered, but deemed callous, enjoying reading the suffering of the desperate. And where novels aren't escapism or entertainment, but sickening copies, frauds of the precious.
I won’t delve too deeply into literary theory, but gently ask, how far from the truth is Collins? Are all books just an encapsulation of the writer’s memories, conscious or not? When we read a memoir, are we too treading into someone else’s space and past? Whilst we are in no realm of fantasy here, there are unavoidable similarities that take this novel, beyond just that of entertainment. From my standpoint, this book easily surpasses ‘a good read’ and is ‘a must read’, to explore every element of young Emmett, and his trials and tribulations. Find who you would relate to most within the pages. And what you would believe in, were you really stepping foot into this upside down world.
Collin’s writing is beautiful, perfectly encapsulating the fears, hopes, dreams, and deceits of her characters. The twists are present and the plot, unescapable. I urge you to turn headlong into her novel, find yourself lost in a world polar to our own, and discover the secrets that this binding hides.
You can find the other 'Books from the Decades' in this edition of BookTalk.