The Lie Tree made headlines earlier this year when it was announced that a book written for young adults had won the Costa Book Award. This made me intrigued to read it. Does it live up to its headlines?
Set in the nineteenth century, The Lie Tree tells the story of Faith Sunderly, whose family moves away to Vane to escape rumours about her father. Shortly after her arrival in Vane, Faith finds a newspaper article that suggests the rumours are true. Disturbed, she asks her father about this, and he takes her on a night time expedition to the cove. The next day, Faith's father is found dead, hanging from a cliff, and the coroner and local people are keen to record his death as a suicide. However, Faith is unconvinced by this verdict, and resolves to find the truth. Looking through her father's papers, she learns about the lie tree, a tree which thrives on the spreading of lies and as a lie is spread, grows fruit which enables the person who eats it to see visions of the truth. Can the lie tree lead Faith to the truth about how her father died?
Throughout The Lie Tree, Hardinge uses very detailed descriptions of Faith's surroundings. This creates an eerie atmosphere, which gives the reader a sense of the danger in which Faith places herself to find the lie tree. Although the novel starts slightly slowly, as it gathers pace, the reader is immersed in the world which Faith inhabits. I could not put the book down in my desperation to discover the truth of what had happened.
Despite being written for young adults, The Lie Tree addresses some important themes, particularly the role of females in society. In the nineteenth century, it was very rare for women and girls to express an interest in natural science or be allowed to participate in excavations in the way that Faith does. Faith is developed throughout the novel as a strong, determined, intelligent character who follows her instincts, despite the advice of the people around her. As a result, it was easy for me to identify with Faith, and it is easy to see how younger readers whose identity is still developing could connect emotionally with the character. This also helped the reader to become engaged with the book and continue reading.
I will admit that I was slightly discouraged from reading this novel by its "young adult" label. However, this concern was largely unfounded, as I found The Lie Tree to be an interesting and thought-provoking read.
The Lie Tree is available from Amazon.