A book about bookbinding? As soon as I heard that such a thing had been published, I had to read it. The Binding by Bridget Collins came out on 10th January. It has sumptuous printed marble endpapers and a gold embossed jacket, brimming with portent.
The central character is sent away to learn the skills of the book making trade at an isolated house with a dearly described bindery. This section, whilst tinged with home-sickness and hesitation, is my favourite part of the novel, hours of repetitive processes, the deep learning of an ancient craft.
A tale of dark fantasy emerges. It is possible to bind traumatic experiences within the cloth and leather covers of a book. When these sensitive memories are held safe, a delicate equilibrium is maintained, but catharsis has a bleaker edge – the rich and powerful are able to absolve their crimes by silencing their victims.
A compelling read, The Binding challenged my beliefs about the sanctity of books, which was deeply unsettling. While ultimately redemptive, the story troubled my dreams and stimulated wide-ranging conversation.
Let me know what you think.
The Binding, by Bridget Collins, is published by The Borough Press.
What a pleasure to realise that the author attended a bookart course, tutored by Stevie Ronnie and I, at the Arvon Foundation, Lumb Bank!