Part fantasy and part historical drama The Binding is a real revelation. It is Collins’ first book for an adult audience. A twisting dark gothic tale it centres around Emmett Farmer. In the first part he is recovering from a mysterious illness and on reduced duties on the farm where he lives with his parents and sister Alta. A letter arrives out of the blue and suddenly Emmett is packed off to be an apprentice Binder.
His new employer Seradith is an old woman living alone in the middle of nowhere. With her reputation for being a witch Emmett is a little afraid of what life with her will be like. Instead she is concerned about his welfare and sets him up with some tools and leather and he begins to learn about the craft of book binding. But Seradith takes all of her customers down to the dank basement. The room that is always under lock and key. The place that Emmett cannot go. As Seradith’s health starts to fail she imparts a little more information to him about the work of the Binder. How they take away people’s memories and seal them into a personal book. The books are secured in a vault and the willing Bindee has no recollection of the stories they have shared.
Some readers may find this book a challenging read with references to abuse and sexual violence, gay relationships and the persecution of gay men in society. While the violence and sexual scenes aren’t graphic they are very evocative and even sensual which may offend a reader expecting a novel about a book binder!
The Binding is a glorious mix of Victorian morality, an ill fated love affair and the fantastic ghoulish concept of the Binder who can steal your thoughts away. Once you immerse yourself in its dark and devilish conceit you won’t be able to tear yourself away from Emmett’s story.
Supplied by Net Galley and The Borough Press in exchange for an honest review.
UK Publication date: Jan 10 2019. 448 pages.