EDIT: I’ve decided to stop calling these ‘reviews’. I’m not trying to be a professional reviewer, and just want to share my views on books I’ve read recently, uninformed by any real critical depth. I’m equally not trying to be particularly balanced, just going on my reader reaction. SO from now on I’ll be calling them ‘Views’ and removing ratings. I’ve edited the two views I’ve done so far accordingly. View is a funny word, isn’t it? View view view.
Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: 7th May 2015
Cover design: James Fraser
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 . . .
MY VIEW: A murder mystery. A revenge tale. A feminist text. Holy guacamole, I loved this book. I finished it at 1 a.m. last night, having spent the last two days reading it in great gulps. My feeling for this book is so strong I want to go back and start it again. But first I’ll tell you why.
The plot: Faith’s father is a pastor and respected natural scientist, credited with finding a Nephilim fossil – evidence of angels. But upon their arrival in Vane, an island far-removed from their society life in Kent, Faith discovers that the reason for their move is not so her father can help at an excavation there, but rather because his reputation was not safe on the mainland. His mysterious murder thrusts his papers into her care, where she discovers his greatest find was not the remains of angels, but something living that feeds off lies. Gripping, original, the story was tethered wonderfully somewhere between magic and reality.
The heroine: Faith is a complex, breathing, utterly real creation. Trapped by her time and circumstance, she is by turns warm, clever, and when needs must, cruel. Her relationships to her brother, mother and father are compelling and believable. Harding does not do sketches for characters, but gives each component a beating heart and life of their own.
The writing: ‘The boat moved with nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth.’ From this first line, I was helpless. Understated, exacting, beautiful. THE LIE TREE is craft, writing that does not show its stitches. Here are some of my favourite passages.
‘Back in the trophy room the gentleman would be taking the leash off their conversation. Likewise, here in the drawing room, each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left by the men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, like flowers or knives.’
This was my first encounter with Hardinge’s work, and can tell I’ve found a new favourite author. Excuse me while I add all her books to my Christmas list. THE LIE TREE can be yours for £6.99! DO IT.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Faith, for the reasons mentioned above. But I also thought Myrtle, her mother, was brilliantly realised.
IF YOU LIKED THIS YOU’LL LIKE THESE: HIS DARK MATERIALS TRILOGY by Philip Pullman, REMARKABLE CREATURES by Tracey Chevalier, THE WOLF WILDER by Katherine Rundell