You may have already heard of Bridget Collins’ novel, The Binding. After all, it’s already hit the top of the bestseller charts in the UK, and has been popping up all over Instagram and Goodreads. But do you know the story behind this historical novel? We invite you to read, in Bridget’s own words, what inspired her to write The Binding.
I began studying bookbinding a few years ago, and was immediately seduced by it: by the processes that haven’t changed in centuries, the materials—the coloured papers, gold, embroidery, silk, leather—and the tools made of wood and bone and metal. It was all so wonderfully tactile, with a sort of subtle glamour that made me imagine another, older, world. Being an incorrigible daydreamer—I mean, writer—I suppose it was inevitable that I’d pretend I was an apprentice, and imagine the life of one around me. At the same time, I was a volunteer with the Samaritans, where I had the privilege of hearing people’s stories, which were often traumatic or painful, and ‘holding’ these stories for them made me feel that my act of listening somehow helped them heal. Occasionally, though, I’d come across someone who was ‘stuck’, whose whole life had become defined by a single memory in which they were a victim or a villain. I began to ask myself: what would happen if I could simply reach out and take this story away from them, leaving them to begin anew? And would I do it, if I could? What would it be like? And what would the wider implications be? From this juxtaposition, the central idea of The Binding was born—a world where a person can store a part of their life in a book, and walk away remembering nothing. I’ve always been fascinated by memory loss, and the way it can make the simplest things heart-breakingly poignant (I’m haunted by the time my grandfather turned to my mother, following my grandmother’s death, and said, ‘I wonder why Joy doesn’t write to me…’) and gradually came to see that this was one way to tell a story about it—and about our sense of identity, and desire, and consumerism, but, perhaps most of all, a story about love. After all, The Binding is about two people who love, betray, and find each other again—though not necessarily in that order—and, at its heart, it is shamelessly romantic. This is my first adult novel and, in many ways, writing it felt like a new beginning, writing for myself without a thought to what would happen once I’d finished. When I started, I didn’t even know what sort of book it was going to be, and I wrote in a fever of discovery. I always fall in love with my characters, at least a little, and I remember the butterflies-in-stomach, broken-sleep, no-appetite joy of writing some of these scenes. I loved finding the contrasts between the two narrative voices—one with a kind of innocence, on a wide-eyed journey of discovery, the other darker, more complex, leading us deeper into this sinister world—and I relished the dynamics of knowing and not-knowing that are constantly at play. There’s hardly a single scene where both protagonists know everything—and I’m hoping their dynamic, the desperately reaching out to each other across an abyss of stolen memories, lends their relationship additional depth and intensity. But the person who really completes a book is the reader. Finding a publisher for The Binding has been an amazing experience—but the most important, exciting time is when a book takes its first steps into the real world. I really hope you enjoy The Binding, which, being about books and about lovers, is a book-lover’s book in more ways than one.
Imagine you could erase grief. Imagine you could remove pain. Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret. Forever. In the tradition of Sarah Waters, Helene Weeker, and Jessie Burton, The Binding is an atmospheric and mystery-laden historical novel set within a magical world where books are not stories but the repository of individual lives.