The Lie Tree: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Magic” was not an answer; it was an excuse to avoid looking for one.

The Lie Tree by Francis HardingeFaith Sunderly is no longer a child but at fourteen she is not quite a woman. Desperate for her father’s respect, Faith is keen to be seen as a proper young lady. But a proper young lady doesn’t have a sharp intellect or burning curiosity that drives her to acts of subterfuge. They certainly don’t harbor dreams of becoming a scientist.

Faith knows that some kind of calamity drove her family from their home in Kent to the strange island of Vane and ruined her father’s reputation. The Reverend Sunderly’s name is further sullied when he dies under strange circumstances soon after the family’s arrival. While her grasping mother does everything she can to ensure the Reverend has a Christian burial, Faith is resolutely certain that her father was murdered.

Investigating his death and the events that brought the family to the island, Faith discovers that her father was hiding an odd tree that thrives in near darkness and bears fruit for every lie it’s told. Stranger still, every piece of fruit can reveal a secret truth.

Hoping to prove her worth as a scientist and discover her father’s murderer, Faith plans to study the tree and use its fruit. But revealing a truth as large as the identity of a murderer requires monstrous lies which soon gain a life of their own and threaten to destroy far more than Faith’s reputation in The Lie Tree (2016) by Frances Hardinge.

The Lie Tree is Hardinge’s latest standalone novel.

The Lie Tree is atmospheric and evocative with vibrant descriptions of the island landscape. Hardinge seamlessly blends a variety of genres in this book which features a compelling mystery, a thoughtfully detailed historical setting circa 1868, and fascinating fantasy elements.

In her short life Faith has come up against the limitations of her gender repeatedly and seen the scientific world she so loves betray her again and again. Faith knows she is capable of becoming more than a decorative and occasionally witty wife like her mother. Yet the men in her life constantly remind Faith that to want more, indeed to want almost anything at all, runs contrary to her proper place in the world. As a result Faith is a pragmatic and often ruthless heroine. She knows she is unkind and unlikable. She doesn’t care. This fact is deftly illustrated with her reluctant association with Paul–an island boy unwillingly drawn into Faith’s investigations.

This complex and nuanced narrative is all about contrasts and tensions. The Lie Tree takes place at a time when scientists are still struggling to find ways to articulate evolution and to reconcile scientific advancements with spiritual belief. Faith’s father is terrified of what evolution and archaeology might mean for his already fragile religious faith. His efforts to find definitive proof of one or the other ultimately becomes his undoing.

The Lie Tree also examines the ways in which femininity can be exploited and manipulated as demonstrated by its varied cast of characters. Faith explores this theme throughout the narrative as she tries to make sense of her role in an adult world that has little use for her both as a not-quite child and as a young woman.

Recommended for readers who like their fantasy to come with mystery, suspense, a firmly historical setting and a healthy dose of feminism. The Lie Tree is a provocative and fascinating novel guaranteed to stay with readers long after the book is finished. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, Steeplejack by A. J. Hartley, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel, A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood, The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller, The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

*An advance copy of this title was provided for review by the publisher at BEA 2016*

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March 2017 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read in February.

Books Read:

  1. A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
  2. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  3. Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro
  4. Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer, artwork by Doug Holgate with Stephen Gilpin
  5. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
  6. Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor
  7. It’s Not Me It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm
  8. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roerhig
  9. The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrmyple
  10. Death Note Black Edition, Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba
  11. Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst
  12. Freya by Matthew Laurence
  13. The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer
  14. Plutona by Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire
  15. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
  16. Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
  17. Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones (re-read)
  18. The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
  19. If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson
  20. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow Book by Jessica Townsend

Books On Deck:

  1. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (March 28, Vine)
  2. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman (April 18)
  3. The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty (May 9)
  4. Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (May)
  5. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo (May 30)
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (May 30)
  7. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (June 6, Vine)
  8. What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (July)
  9. Love is Both Particle and Wave by Paul Cody (Aug. 1)
  10. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (Aug. 29)
  11. Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu (Sept.)

Books Bought:

  1. A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
  2. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti (signing)
  3. Take Me There by Susane Colasanti (signing)

ARCs Received:

  1. Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu (requested)
  2. Graphic Novel care package from First:Second (finished copies, not requested): Friends with Boys, Decelerate Blue, American Born Chinese, Wires and Nerve, The Wrenchies
  3. Various titles from AAP Book Buzz–I’m still deciding if I’m going to recap this. Stay tuned.
  4. The Possible by Tara Altebrando (requested, Bloomsbury)
  5. The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (not requested, Abrams)
  6. The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren (not requested, Abrams)

March 1: Obviously I am not going to read all of the books I have on deck before the month is out, nor do I have to. Mainly I’ve found it useful to see all the review books in one place that I have that I should read on a loose deadline and this post seemed like the obvious spot. So far it’s been helping me keep a little better on top of reading books nearish to release while still fitting in backlist and other titles I want to read.

March 6: I am torn between wanting to motor through ACOL and wanting it to last forever so I took time out to read some comics this weekend since I just got a stack from First Second.

March 16: Starting to see some actual concrete progress in reading down my owned books. Finally!