Cristina Caboni’s The Binder of Lost Stories is a combination of realistic and historical fiction that will appeal to fans of descriptive writing and mysteries that wind across centuries. At the center of the novel is Sofia Bauer, a restorer of books who has stumbled upon mysterious notes from a past bookbinder hidden in the final pages of a rare tome. Feeling silenced in her own life with a marriage that is falling apart and a growing sense of hopelessness, Sofia is drawn to the book and to solving what the mysterious papers mean. They lead her to the story of Clarice, a woman who two hundred years earlier defied convention to study book binding in the same way that Sofia now does and hid the secrets of her life in her work. Drawn into the mystery of who Clarice was, Sofia joins together with book collector Tomaso to uncover what Clarice was trying to say.
This book might appeal to readers who like historical fiction with a connection to the present, and the parallels between Sofia feeling silenced in her own life and Clarice finding a way to make her voice heard in the past provide a unique plot structure that drives the story forward. There is lots of description of the books Sofia comes into contact with and her character has some interior monologues that provide a center theme of feeling pushed aside that readers may find relatable. I enjoyed hearing more about the world of book restoration and how women struggled to be recognized in the field as well as the journey of self-discovery Sofia was on as she struggles with her marriage. The connection between Clarice’s narrative and the problems Sofia experienced was heavy-handed at times, but readers looking for an ultimately empowering story will enjoy this quick read. Additionally, the beautiful settings and some dramatic plot twists provide a nice escape from the current swarm of pandemic news. The story is sweet, if somewhat predictable, and is an uplifting choice for readers looking for a quick pick with an element of mystery.