The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

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Blurb:  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 . . .

This is a hauntingly Gothic read which integrates fantastic elements, in the form of the Lie Tree and its effects, with an intricately woven ‘coming of age’ tale that reveals deep truths about the reality of relationships with those we love, and also how we deceive ourselves about those relationships and our own part in them.

There is a strong underlying theme of examining the role of women in a changing society.  Faith, as narrative voice, is highly critical of the role and opportunities allowed to her (or more often not) due to her sex, but is equally critical of the other women that she encounters and their overt and covert methods of obtaining power in a male-dominated world.

Obviously Faith is an unreliable narrator, and this is essential to the plot, as the reader recognises her hypocrisy and self-delusion early, but follows her journey as she uncovers the truths about herself whilst seeking the answers to her father’s life and death.

The mystery element of the plot is well-wrought, with suspicion staining everyone; because after all, we all have our secrets.  The fantasy aspects are presented under the guise of science, but the visions experienced under the influence of the tree’s fruit perfectly capture a fever-dream feeling, and cleverly reflect clues to the mystery, shrouded in murky layers of misdirection.

Not quite an ‘easy’ read, but a thought-provoking, deeply symbolic one that I found intriguing, and that stayed with me for quite a while after I had put the book down.

“Choose a lie that others wish to believe” was written beneath it. “They will cling to it, even if it is proven false before their face. If anyone tries to show them the Truth, they will turn on them and fight them tooth and nail.”

– Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree

You can find the author’s website here (and I can recommend taking The Covered Way if you are a puzzle fan!), or you can follow her on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

    1. Yes it really was. It was the hyper-criticality towards other women’s choices that particularly rang true for me and stayed with me afterwards, but the mystery story that ‘carries’ the themes is equally strong.

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