My foray into young adult fiction has been with The Binding by Bridget Collins, one of the most acclaimed books of 2019, which has appeared on several bestseller lists and won the hearts of many worldwide with its unique themes. Emmett, a young lad is sent to serve as Seredith, a book binder’s apprentice. Ironically, his parents keep him away from books for his entire life but suddenly compel him to embrace this forbidden world without any proper justification. He starts living with Seredith in an old, lonely and quiet house; picking up basic skills and slowly growing fond of her. All goes well till he chances upon Seredith’s client Lucian Darnay, the reality of the work of binding, and a book named after him.
The storyline shifts to the past with a flashback sequence of Emmett living with his family – parents and sister, Alta – and managing their farm. When Alta is saved from a freak accident by the nephew of a nearby farm lord, she befriends him and they become inseparable friends. Alta starts developing feelings for her saviour. Things progress smoothly until a fateful day when relationships turn upside down. The book intersperses the past and the present smoothly to give the readers the entire scenario. The answers to questions that haunt the minds of the readers – Who is Lucian Darnay? What is his relationship with Emmett? Why is Emmett sent into the world of books that his parents despised much? Why are books objects of hatred? – starts unravelling themselves.
The Binding is an unforgettably magical story about relationships, friendship, love and the fight to reunite with ones love against all odds. It shows how the world works on pretence and sometimes how hypocritical it becomes to endure this falsehood. It explores the abusive nature of individuals – physical or mental- towards family or the weak. It throws light on the psyche of the one who is defeated and gives up on the world. It talks about the innate strength that one gets to fight for those one dearly loves. With multiple themes that one can relate to and that fits so perfectly within the storyline, Collins brings closer the world of pages and reality.
With a parallel focus on the existence and constituents of books, the novel expresses to the readers the various aspects of books- the reasons for creating a book, the rationale behind it, the morality of its existence, and the diversification of the profession through trading of books.The art of ‘binding’ seems simple and yet is a task full of responsibilities. Elements of the purpose and experience of reading a book have been incorporated in the process of ‘binding’ books and its consequences in the lives of the people. It creates a parallel universe, introduces new characters, generates curiosity and controls or manipulates the mind with limited knowledge. Seen from the point-of-view of the readers the process of ‘binding’ creates various interpretations to a person’s life, giving them the liberty to perceive the situations as per their interests. The Binding also highlights the community perceptions towards binders and books in general. While some find both necessary and respect them; many spread rumours and legends of binders being witches or wizards and books as evil spirits.
The Binding refers to the binding of a book, keeping which in focus; Collins weaves a spellbinding charm by merging fantasy and reality. One reads books on a day to day basis, but the most significant question being raised here is -What is actually being read? Thoughts? Memories? Desires? Secrets? This novel makes the readers contemplate on what makes up a book and why does it become so popular. From making books seem to be a very personal object to introducing trade books and immoral selling for making quick profit, The Binding explores the idea of book binding and the business of books in details. The processes and ideologies explained here are in simple terms, but the actualities of these nomenclatures are far deeper than what meets the eye and have severe impacts on the book industry.
Filled with innovative themes and realistic character plots, The Binding is a must –read book for all ages. It subtly and beautifully touches a chord with the readers and brings to the forefront, books in a new light.
No. of pages: 438