‘We take memories and bind them. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm. That’s all books are.’
Seredith lives in the marshlands of Castleford in Yorkshire where she serves her days as a binder. Trained in the craft of binding, she takes memories from people, memories they can no longer live with and these memories are bound into the pages of a book and closed, never to be read. It is through this trade of binding that we meet Emmett Farmer, a young man from a nearby area who seems to be suffering a mental trauma and an unexplained feverishness. From here weaves the most original tale I have read in quite some time, Bridget Collins with a wordsmith’s finesse threads the story of Emmett Farmer, his sister Alta and a stranger called Lucian Darnay.
Books are feared in this world. To read a book is not to read a novel plotted out by someone but to be catapulted into the world trapped in the pages, absorbed by and voyeur to the private and often painful memories of those who have been bound by the binder. A dark trade exists where books are sold for the private collection of others, thus allowing the purchaser to experience the violent, hedonistic or sorrowful memories of others, a chasm of remorse shut tight by a leather cover. Emmett Farmer, an apprentice binder remains with the reader from the start until the end, a former farmer’s son anxious to return to full health. His forbidden love for Lucian Darnay gives heat and substance to the plot, intertwined with the beauty and heartbreak of those who ask for their memories to be taken.
Collins has produced a very insightful piece, in this her first adult novel. She poses the question to us, ‘If you could erase a memory, never to relive it again, would you do it?’. Instinctively we may all agree that there are areas we would happily forget, however, are these memories not part of who we are? Many of us may have memories which are so beautiful that we can no longer bear to remember them and we would hand them away in the interests of self-preservation. Are we effectively renouncing our identity in making such a decision? Collins challenges us to answer this and to consider the possibility that we are running from ourselves in having ourselves bound.
Structurally, this was a tidy piece with Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Each part is written from a different viewpoint and perspective, allowing for a developed perception of each character. Part One and Part Two were written in a unique and stunning fashion, Collins has a true talent for writing, using language which creates imagery at every page turn. Part Three for me, lacked the pace of the preceding parts and delayed the inevitable outcome of the novel, which I found myself a little flat after. Notwithstanding, this was a superb novel with original eye-catching artwork and a beautiful plot which left me pining for a better life for the characters. This new publication will be a well-deserved success in 2019.
(c) Dymphna Nugent
Order your copy online here.