TIES THAT BIND
WEAVING MAGIC AND MEMORY, THIS YOUNG BRITISH WRITER’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED ADULT NOVEL EXPLORES THE POWER OF THE PAST
THE BINDING Bridget Collins HarperCollins $29.99
English author Bridget Collins’ first novel for adults caused quite the buzz in the literary world. There was an eight-way auction for the publishing rights and the UK release of the fantasy historical fiction has been greeted with an enthusiasm seldom seen since Harry Potter.
It’s come out of the blue for Bridget, who trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and began writing young adult novels as an out-of-work thespian.
With seven young adult titles to her name, the clamour has come as a “completely different experience”.
“It was overwhelming,” Bridget says. “After I finished the manuscript, I said to my agent, ‘Do you think it will be published?’ and she said, ‘I think it will’.
“I had no idea it would be a big deal. It was amazing.”
Bridget had been between contracts after her old editor left her previous publishing house.
Seven ideas she floated with her agent were all rejected as being “not commercial”.
“I was at the stage where it was really hard to write anything,” she says.
“So I said to myself, I’m just going to write something and not going to think if it’s a children’s or an adult’s book.
“I did it without second guessing the
audience. It was the book I wrote for me — in that way, it’s the most authentic thing I’ve ever written.”
The Binding is the page-turning story of young field worker Emmett Farmer who is summonsed to be an apprentice bookbinder, a trade that is greeted with fear, superstition and prejudice in his family and village.
It is a time when books do not contain stories but the erased memories of people.
Their pasts and secrets are stored away in elegantly bound volumes kept in a vault under the bookbinder’s workshop.
Emmett’s mistress is an artisan but he encounters a cast of characters with darker, more ambiguous motives.
When Emmett discovers a book with his own name on it, it will change the course of his life.
Early reviewers have praised the originality of the concept, which is part mystery, part love story and part fable, but the idea is grounded in Bridget’s own experiences.
“I started bookbinding classes because writers lead a solitary life and I decided I needed to get out and meet people,” she says.
“Most people would get away from books but I enjoy the craft of it, working with my hands, materials and tools when I work so much in my head.”
The art of bookbinding is little changed over the centuries, leading a fertile mind such as Bridget’s to imagine the life of a bookbinding apprentice.
The second seed of the idea came from her volunteer work with the Samaritans, a telephone crisis service similar to that offered by Lifeline in Australia.
“It’s a great privilege to talk to people and listen to them tell their stories,” she says.
“After a while, you begin to speak to the same people and they tell the same traumatic story over again.
“You get this sense they are completely stuck. Sometimes you feel like you are reinforcing the trauma by listening to it again.
“I started to think if I could just reach out and take that memory away, they could start again.”
Bridget describes The Binding as ultimately a story about love and kindness — in the end a love story of the kind she loves to tell.
She is now editing the manuscript of the second book in her two-book publishing deal. It is not a sequel but she says she’s noticed the same themes running through it, only on a much bigger canvas.
As for her acting ambitions, Bridget has reconciled that it probably won’t be her career now but she still experiences the joy of acting through amateur productions.
“I think I’ve made my peace with that now,” she says.
No doubt many of her new readers will be very happy to hear it.
“YOU GET THIS SENSE THEY ARE COMPLETELY STUCK. SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE REINFORCING THE TRAUMA BY LISTENING TO IT AGAIN.”