Kind of like a nineteenth century version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Binding is an atmospheric and bittersweet fantasy in which we meet Emmett Farmer. Living in a small village with his family, Emmett’s world is one on which books are taboo. For in this world, books don’t contain mere stories but memories – binders can take your most painful memories and bind them into books, wiping your mind clean of them. When we meet Emmett he’s in recuperation after a mystery illness and, no longer much use to his family, is soon apprenticed to a binder.
As Emmett begins to learn his trade, he also learns that for those with money binding can be abused with the more unscrupulous in the trade taking money in order to wipe the minds of the victims of the wealthy, leaving them to continue their vicious pleasures free from any thoughts of censure or retribution. And Emmett learns something else too – there’s a book with his name on it.
The Binding delivered on the promise of its beautiful cover with a well realised world and characters and with the love story at its centre delivering quite a few unexpected lumps to the throat along the way. The small minded attitudes of society and the abuses by the wealthy were all extremely plausible drivers for the trade of binding and why it’s looked at askance by supposedly decent folk, while Collins really captured the delicious mix of pleasure and pain of falling in love.
If you’re in the mood for a sort of Victorian feeling fantasy, you could do a lot worse than trying this.