Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - Costa Book of the Year Review

Publisher: Macmillan (2015)

'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...' (Publisher's blurb)

I started reading this book a couple of days before it won the Costa Book of the Year 2015. It's so exciting that a children's book has won this award and I can't think of a more deserving recipient!

It's a long time since I've read a book with such an original premise. Although this has the feel of a deliciously dark fairy tale, there was no point when I felt like the plot borrowed from anywhere else. The tension accumulates as Faith unearths more clues about her father's disappearance and makes for a thrilling read.

Faith is a really interesting main character. As a girl in a past when women were deemed inferior, she's often ignored. This enables her to listen in on conversations and subtly spread her lies. I love it when a character feels so real and at the same time her every attribute is entangled in the plot.

Another part of this that I loved was the writing style. The settings in particular were described with language that was somehow both clear and poetic. Take this as just one example: 'The mist flattened everything and sucked out all colour. Trees became intricate smoke-hued doilies. Buildings were featureless outlines, eiderdown grey.' So beautiful and evocative!

This book was also incredibly well-researched. The references to the theory of evolution adding a fascinating element and the many historical details created an impression of realism. My favourite (and most morbid) aspect of this was when Faith encountered a local boy whose photographer father was often hired to take pictures of the dead.

Everything about this book was so wonderfully creepy and well-executed that I can't think of a bad thing to say about it. I'm really looking forward to reading more by Frances Hardinge!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (for something dark and terrifying)
-The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (for an intriguing and unpredictable mystery)


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