Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Binding - Bridget Collins

This was one of those books that seemed to be everywhere on social media both pre and post publication. People whose opinions I respected were extolling its virtues. But try as I might I wasn’t able to secure a proof! Such is the lot of a minimal reach blogger! So I had to wait for publication day and buy a copy.

It’s a fabulously imaginative book, its tendrils sneaking into the realms of magical realism and fantasy fiction. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who was reminded of the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But The Binding is not a modern setting. There’s something historic, gothic almost, about the treatment of memory and what happens when it is ‘erased’. I worry about giving too much away but sometimes it’s hard to omit salient events and still offer a credible review!

I think the reverence and love for books is an underlying thread that will excite the genuine bibliophiles amongst its readership. I confess I could almost smell the books during some of the descriptive passages. 

The ambiguity of the title was satisfying, for the reader is required to consider more than just one meaning of the word and all it conveys. That appeals to me for sometimes a title seems to be ‘just’ an identifier. It doesn’t relate to the book as a whole. When the title is inclusive with the novel it elevates the story subliminally.

There is an oblique subtlety to some of the concepts explored in the book. Certainly there are some moral issues to be explored and considerations of what kinds of knowledge are desirable or not. I want to forge some kind of comparison with Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 regarding the nature of books but it’s too tenuous, though, I think. It's clever to write about the forbiddenness of books in a book. That may have some readers guiltily looking over their shoulders subconsciously! I would say that if books were ever required to bear any kind of censorship certificate then this would require an A for Animal Cruelty. I found that distressing. 

The writing is immersive and the reader is drawn along into the curious world of binding. The characters are boldly drawn, Lucian Darnay, even the name conjures a specific personality type and period, or maybe I am thinking of Dickens and Charles Darnay. And Emmett Farmer, you can visualise him just by his name! They, together with Emmett’s sister, Alta are the key players. But don’t be fooled. Not all is as it seems.  I did intuit potentially what was happening, not the precise details but I saw the flavour of where a particular part of the story was headed. I think, though, that Seredith was my favourite character and the one I’d like to be!!!

I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the book, for I did. It was original and well written. Maybe because of the social media frenzy it had presented as much bigger than it actually was for me. That’s a shame because that sounds as if I’m being critical. I guess the moral of the tale is not to let social media influence your expectations. 

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