The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree Frances Hardinge

Rating: 4.5 Stars ★★★★★

The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth.

Plot

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

Review

I really, really, really liked this book. It’s a great historical novel with some fantasy elements thrown in. The whole premise of the book is amazing: a tree that tells you the truth if you feed it lies.

But the best thing about this book are definitely the characters. Faith is a fourteen-year-old girl in the 19th century. Which means she is incredibly restricted. The feeling of oppression is palpable throughout the book. There’s just so much she or her mother can’t do because they’re women.

There was a hunger in her, and girls were not supposed to be hungry. They were supposed to nibble sparingly when at table, and their minds were supposed to be satisfied with a slim diet too. A few stale lessons from tired governesses, dull walks, unthinking pastimes. But it was not enough.

Faith takes what she can get and runs with it. She may not be able to go out unchaperoned or even talk to people without the proper social niceties. But she uses what she can do brilliantly.

It was amazing how she prepares her lies. She doesn’t just go out and tell them. She builds them up, nurtures them like a fire and then watches them spread.

A lie was like a fire, Faith was discovering. At first it needed to be nursed and fed, but carefully and gently. A slight breath would fan the new-born flames, but too vigorous a huff would blow it out. Some lies took hold and spread, crackling with excitement, and no longer needed to be fed. But then these were no longer your lies. They had a life and shape of their own, and there was no controlling them.

She finds ways to go where she has to go, even if it means sneaking out in the night or asking a boy for help.

I also liked how you couldn’t really trust any of the characters. Basically, everyone in the book seemed like an asshole. Her dad, whom Faith idolizes is cold, distant and dismissive of both her and her mother. Her mother seems very vain and superficial, her brother like a spoilt brat and her uncle greedy.

But – and here’s the great but: The characters all have layers. None of them are just villains or just heroes. And that was just amazing. Some were quite surprising. I loved what we found out about her mother – that she’s not such an idiot as we’re first led to believe. It was amazing and fun to read.

Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.

Conclusion

What an amazing book, full of vivid atmosphere and a great, intelligent protagonist.

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