By the Book - Literary Life Lessons

By the Book #25 – The Binding by Bridget Collins

What if we could get rid of painful memories? Bridget Collins explored this notion in her novel The Binding. Want to know what it's about? Read on!

What if we could forget our darkest moments? Some part of me thinks it would be great, for we wouldn’t continuously be reminded of the things we’d prefer not to remember – but another part of me thinks it’s all our experiences, the good and the bad, that define who we are. The Binding by Bridget Collins is a novel about exactly this topic. Want to know what happens to those whose memories have been wiped clean, and who profits from it? Read on!

The Binding takes place in an alternate Victorian England, and is about the forbidden love between Emmett Farmer, a poor boy, and Lucian Darnay, a mysterious, handsome, rich boy. Emmett is a Binder, which means that he has the ability to transfer someone’s memories to a book. Once this is done, those who have been “bound” go on living their lives as though nothing has ever happened. Eventually, Emmett realises that he has been bound too, against his will, and so has his lover. Determined to discover the truth, he goes against the wishes of his superiors, and risks his life in doing so.

In The Binding, getting rid of certain experiences comes at a price: they pay with a part of their soul. Depending on what happened and how much has to be cut away, there is a gap in their minds, and there is no way to fill it. Their minds are as blank as the pages of their book used to be. As a result, their worlds turn colourless and grey. They are listless, lethargic, and while they no longer remember what hurt them before, they have given up caring about anything at all. Therefore, one has to be absolutely sure that getting rid of these memories is a better alternative than remembering them. However, sometimes they have no choice.

Bridget Collins’s alternate universe is quite different from the real Victorian age, but there are some striking similarities. Firstly, there is a major difference between the classes, with the upper class having all the power, and the poor living their separate lives, serving their superiors. Secondly, the rich exploit the poor in this universe, too, and get away with it. Since binding isn’t cheap, it is only the very wealthy who can afford it – and they make very clever use of it. Some of them mistreat others, and solve this problem by calling their Binders every once in a while, who make sure their deeds aren’t remembered. It gives them some kind of perverse pleasure to know they can commit crimes without having to pay for them. Until someone reverses the process of binding, that is.

The only way to recover one’s memories is by burning the book in which they were written down. Since those who have been bound also forget that they had any bad memories to begin with, they don’t know that there’s a book with their name on it. It is only when Emmett finds a book with his name on it, that he knows he has been bound too. The moment he burns it, everything comes flooding back to him: he had an affair with Lucian, but his parents were so ashamed by it that they decided Emmett deserved a second chance at living a proper life – and so did Lucian’s. It was heartbreaking to read about their love, which they were forced to forget simply because it was frowned upon by society. Emmett’s determination to find Lucian’s book, therefore, is not simply an act of love, but also an act of rebellion to those in power. 

At the end of the novel, Emmett burns down an entire library filled with illegally obtained books, liberating everyone who has been forced to give up their memories. To me, this is where The Binding could really have been really interesting; the entire society could have been overturned by the poor who would take revenge on the elite, and it might have started a revolution. However, the novel ends with the reunion of Emmett and Lucian, who remember that they love each other and will continue to do so. I certainly hope there will be a sequel about the political ramifications of Emmett’s actions.

Let’s end with a personal note. Bridget Collins’s novel discusses something everyone must have contemplated at one point in their lives: wouldn’t we be so much happier if we could erase painful memories? Certainly, there are some things that happened to me in the past that still haunt me to this day, and I often wish I could forget them. However, since everything that happens in our lives shapes who we are, erasing only the bad memories is bound (pun intended) to turn us into bad people. We learn something valuable about ourselves every time something happens, and we need all those memories to help us turn into better versions of ourselves. In fact, let’s start writing things down more often, to make sure we never forget. Ev

Which memories would you erase, if you could? Would you force someone else to make them forget something about you? Let me know in the comments! Also make sure to follow me for more book musings!

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