Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
The Bookbinder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne – Book Details
TITLE – The Bookbinder’s Daughter
AUTHOR – Jessica Thorne
YEAR PUBLISHED – 2021
PAGE COUNT – 248
MY RATING – 4 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 3.84 of 5
What It Is About
“Creativity is born in chaos… but it cannot thrive there. It needs us to bring it order, so it can truly live, so it can spread. We are the midwives of inspiration, the shepherds of new ideas.”
When Sophie was a teenager, her mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The only thing certain is that her disappearance had something to do with the Ayredale Library, a very special kind of library where Sophie has spent her childhood.
After the tragedy, Sophie’s father took Sophie as far away from the library as possible, determined not to have anything with the place ever again and refusing to ever talk about it. Even Sophie’s memories became unreliable, and yet she can’t stop dreaming of an impossibly tall tree with falling golden leaves resembling the pages of a book.
But after her father’s death, Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library. And though from the moment she returns there it is clear the library holds many secrets, Sophie only cares about getting one answer – what happened to her mother all those years ago.
The Bookbinder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne – My Review
Another memory – laughing wildly, the wind tearing past her, she was sure she would never fall, that the library building wouldn’t let her. It would never hurt her. This place was safe. It was home.
I debated for quite a while should I or should I not pick up this book. Not because I thought it might be bad, but because it sounded like it wouldn’t be a type of book I usually love and enjoy.
I am not a huge fan of whimsical, lyrical, soft-magic-system fantasies. Every time I read one, the characters puzzle me and I end up needing way more action. Plus, I prefer plain writing style to a lyrical one.
However, I am a huge lover of books-about-books stories. And libraries (any sort of academic setting, really) are amongst my favorites and a sure way to pick my interest. So I decided to give The Bookbinder’s Daughter a shot.
And I am so glad in this case I got a book that is not what I would normally choose to read, but that I still managed to enjoy very much.
In The Bookbinder’s Daughter we follow Sophie, a very talented bookbinder, as she returns to the mysterious library that seems to be calling for her. This is not a normal library, but a place that holds all the mysteries and secrets of the world since the beginning of time.
And I loved how special this place felt. Almost as if it had its own personality and agenda. The descriptions were lush, the imagery vivid. Everything seemed very magical and like fairytale.
The song surrounded her now, the murmuring of the library insistent, and her foot took the first step on the winding stairs. She knew it wasn’t entirely a dream. It was the library calling her, its magic driving her.
There was also a lot of mystery involved in this story. The fact that everyone is keeping secrets. Events from the past that remained unclear for decades. The tree that you can barely call a tree, which Sophie dreamt about for as long as she can remember. And the forgotten language only she understands.
The whole thing felt a bit like a dream, relaxing, hazy and just – beautiful. But what I really liked was that, unlike in most whimsical books I’ve ever read, this one actually had quite a solid plot and even a few unexpected twists.
We also got a love story between Sophie and her childhood sweetheart Will. It wasn’t the greatest romance I’ve ever read, but it was cute and adorable and charming and I really liked it.
And the cat that may or may not be just a regular cat was the cherry on the top in my world.
“You and Will together, keeper and guardian. Through blood and tears, through sacrifice, through love. You know, don’t you? It always comes back to love.”
However, this book wasn’t perfect and there were a few things that kept me from fully sinking into the story.
First, this world was too magical and whimsical to get zero reaction from someone who is not used to it. When Sophie returns to the library, she has spent years working as a bookbinder in London and has practically no recollection of the Ayredale Library. And when the weird starts to occur, parts of her memory just sort of sink back in and she just rolls with everything. Which made her quite an unrelatable protagonist.
Also, her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and her reactions to some of the things he did or said just baffled me. Those parts I did not get at all. At some point I even contemplated he was maybe magically controlling her. But nope, it was just her and her very questionable reasoning.
Many of the other characters also could have been better written. They had such a potential to be truly memorable, yet their characteristics and arcs remained almost completely unexplored.
And then, there were certain moments that reminded me why I am not a huge fan of soft magic systems, where things can happen without any order or explanation. Everything is just possible because – magic.
However, the explanations we did get were beautiful. And the whole story had a melodic flow to it that kept me interested even through the weaker parts.
In the end, I just want to mention I listened The Bookbinder’s Daughter as an audiobook. And I really think that’s the best way to consume this particular story. The narrator, Charlie Norfolk, did a great job. I am convinced I wouldn’t enjoy the book near as much as I did if I read it physically.