The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
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 . . .
I liked this; it reminds me of some of the books I read as a child, The Secret Garden and Tom’s Midnight Garden and Five Children and It. It’s a turn-of-the-century British Empire, and is also set just as Darwin’s theories are turning the scientific community upside-down – but it also has a dose of magic and mystery. It’s no one genre; it’s fantasy but also children’s, coming-of-age and historical fiction.
Faith is interesting; she’s hard-headed and also plain nasty at times, but always sympathetic. She’s very relatable in many ways; she has faults, but we always understand her actions, and it’s interesting to see her grow and change. It’s interesting to see her world through her eyes as well. Faith hero-worships her father, has a distrust of her mother, adores her brother despite finding him annoying. But we also see them as the story progresses, and we see more of their motives and character – Faith’s mother in particular has more layers, and is possibly more interesting for being an unsympathetic character: I’m reminded quite a lot of the girl’s mother in Pride & Prejudice…
The plot is excellent, mystery and danger and gossip, all wound into the island society. The community, the gossip and the sniping and the intrigue, all play wonderfully into Faith’s plans. The tree itself is fascinating, and doesn’t seem out of place despite its origins. The ending is perfect – I didn’t suspect whodunnit until it was revealed!
So, overall: probably not one I’d re-read, but one I’d love to have for the bookshelves, and one that’s gone on the list for when my cousins need a new book!
This is part of my Discoverability Challenge.