Drama | Historical | Mystery | Romance | Translations

The Binder of Lost Stories by Cristina Caboni, Review: Bookish enchantment

The romantic bookish themes in Cristina Caboni’s The Binder of Lost Stories and dramatic quest to solve a historical puzzle will enchant readers.

The Binder of Lost Stories by Cristina Caboni (Author) Patricia Hampton (Trans), Book ReviewThe Binder of Lost Stories Synopsis

From internationally bestselling author Cristina Caboni comes an exquisite and engrossing novel of two women, centuries apart, bound by a love of books and a longing for self-discovery.

With her delicate touch, Sofia Bauer restores books to their original splendour. In this art, she finds refuge from her crumbling marriage and the feeling that her once-vibrant life is slipping away. Then an antique German edition takes her breath away. Slipped covertly into the endpapers is an intriguing missive, the first part of a secret…from one bookbinder to another.

Two hundred years ago, Clarice von Harmel defied the constraints of family and society to engage in a profession forbidden to women. Within three separate volumes, Clarice bound her own hidden story filled with pain, longing, and love beyond all reason. A confession that now crosses centuries to touch the heart of a stranger.

With the help of book collector Tomaso Leoni, Sofia connects the threads of Clarice’s past, page by page, line by line, town by town. She’s determined to make Clarice’s voice heard. With each new revelation, Clarice is giving Sofia the courage to find her own voice and hope for the future she thought was lost.

Translated from the original Italian by Patricia Hampton

(AmazonCrossing, 21 January 2019)

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BOOK REVIEW

The Binder of Lost Stories is unapologetically romantic. It is about the love of books (the items themselves along with the treasures hidden within them), the love between people born from intellectual connection and respect, the love of family, and most importantly, having love for oneself.

Books had always fascinated her. They were possibilities, new opportunities. They were answers. Looking after them, offering them to people, was far more than a job. It was a vocation. She never should have given it up.

The alternating dual timelines and epistolary elements in The Binder of Lost Stories imbue a fairytale-like mystique and enchantment. Both the historical and modern-day plots include echoes of Cinderella and hinge on happy coincidences. In regards to the latter, it is just fortunate I think that I was in the mood for a little escapism. And, Caboni dials up the charm and ethereal quality of this novel by beginning each chapter with apt, evocative and iconic quotes from great authors, poets and playwrights throughout history.

Characters with passion

All leading characters in this novel (incl. Tomaso) are in their own way strong-willed and determined, and these qualities appealed to me. However, I engaged most strongly with Clarice von Harmel’s narrative, perhaps because it contained greater light and shade?

She learned to observe people and see what they expected of her. She learned that people say a lot of things they don’t mean with their mouths, but the eyes do not lie.

The average emotional intensity of Sofia Bauer’s narrative just felt a little higher than was authentic. This elevated dramatic tension could be a result of the translation, or simply an accurate reflection of the famed passionate Italian culture present in the original text. I suspect a combination of the two.

Ultimately though The Binder of Lost Stories’ key themes, the value of books to society, the importance of self-care and the empowerment of women, are undeniably compelling. And, the search for answers to the historical puzzle Cristina Caboni presents readers, certainly entertaining.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5

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Genre: Historical, Romance, Drama, Translation, Mystery

About the Author, Cristina Caboni

Cristina Caboni is the internationally bestselling author of The Secret Ways of Perfume. One of Italy’s best-loved authors, she has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. The Binder of Lost Stories is her second novel to be translated into English. When Cristina is not writing, she devotes herself to her family’s beekeeping business. She currently lives in the province of Cagliari with her husband and three children.

Translator, Patricia Hampton

Patricia Hampton, a graduate in modern languages at the University of Birmingham (UK), taught at the University of London, King’s College, and worked in London as a translator. In 1973 she moved to Italy and perfected her knowledge of the language “in the field.” An expert in linguistic mediation and transcultural issues, she taught English at Milan State University and collaborated on the production of English-language textbooks, and she now focuses on translation within academia and cinema.

* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.