Book No 4 (2021): The Binding

Emmett Farmer hasn’t been feeling too well. What he doesn’t know is that he has been suffering from bookbinder’s fever. When Seredith, an elderly bookbinder who lives alone out on the marshes, chooses Emmett to be her apprentice, the truth about his calling is revealed.

If you want to forget, the binder will take your memory and encase it forever in the pages of a book. Seredith’s shelves are full of carefully stored volumes, beautifully crafted books which bind the memories of those who seek her help. Emmett is settling down to his new life when Seredith dies unexpectedly and his term of apprenticeship has to continue with her son, Mr de Havilland. Emmett hasn’t been at de Havilland’s workshop for long before he is sent to bind his first customer, a maid at the house of a Mr Darnay. The young apprentice is reluctant, as Mr Darnay’s son, Lucian, had once been a visitor at Seredith’s bindery, an encounter which left Emmett feeling inexplicably afraid.

This brings the reader to the end of the first of three parts of the book. Slowly, slowly, the book begins to turn on its axis, so that the fulcrum of the story becomes something totally different. The focus changes from the process of the binding, to the memories it captures. About how the process can be abused, the effects it might have. I was totally enthralled. This was one of those books which I inhabited until it ended. The characters are carefully drawn, the author has a captivating sense of place. She also has an authentic way of describing an often chaotic and distressed state of mind.

Sometimes the pain of grief and despair can feel too much to bear. So what if there was a way to make it all disappear, so you had no recollection of what happened, or of the pain? It sounds very tempting. But a binding isn’t selective, you can’t choose to keep just the happy memories, the good times – you lose the good along with the bad. Would I rather keep the pain and all the memories, or lose the whole lot? And what if someone else could read my binding, or I could read theirs?

I know ‘The Binding‘ is a story, but ever since I read the book, this whole concept has sparked many an internal debate and several real-time conversations. Any book which provokes that kind of reaction has to be worth a read, surely?! I don’t think you will be disappointed.