There is a dark side to all of us. We all tell lies, no matter how hard we try to be honest, lies to each other and lies to ourselves. Frances Hardinge explores that darkness in her new young adult novel about the destruction lies cause.
Fourteen-year-old Faith struggles with being a sneak. It’s so hard for her to be bright, precocious, and a girl in Victorian England. She wants desperately to be recognized for her clever mind but her mother is oblivious and her father is uninterested.
Her father, a natural scientist and a curate, is uprooting the family and setting them on a small island off the coast of southern England. He has been asked to lend his expertise on an excavation. Faith is excited but is quickly put in her place: girls are not expected to be interested in such manly, indelicate pursuits.
But it isn’t long until the true reason her father moved the family comes to light: he has been outed as a fraud who has passed off bogus fossils. Faith is rocked by the news: surely her father, a man of God, would never do such a thing. Would he?
But the plot thickens when Faith’s father is found dead. All signs point to a suicide, but Faith doesn’t believe it. And she is going to find out the truth through lies. This is because Faith is the only one who knows about her father’s most prized plant: The Mendacious Tree. The legend that accompanies the tree is this: if a person feeds it a lie the tree will bear a fruit that when eaten will reveal hidden truths.
Faith needs lies to find the truth. But Faith is unprepared for the consequences of her falsehoods.
Frances Hardinge is a lovely writer. The concept of the Lie Tree seems a bit far-fetched, but she weaves its roots into the story so well that a Victorian naturalist would be completely convinced by the time the story ends. Cleverly plotted with beautiful language, magical realism and palpable emotion, The Lie Tree is a great read.