Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Page Count: 412
When I first started this, I didn’t really get on with the plot and was kind of worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Then I hit around the 100 page mark, and by that point I was hooked. Of course, it helped that I loved the writing style, as well as the idea of mixing together genres. There’s a little bit of everything here, but most notably historical fiction, magical realism and good old-fashioned thriller. Oh, and a sprinkling of mystery, too.
I went into this book pretty much blind, and that’s arguably the best way to do it. Still, I can give you a few details without sharing spoilers. It basically follows the daughter of a guy who’s discovered something called the Mendacity Tree, which basically feeds on lies and ultimately bears fruit that allows the person who eats it to see some sort of truth that was previously unknown to them.
The bigger and more widespread the lie, the better the fruit, which is why her father fakes the discovery of the remains of a dead angel, a nephalim. But then her father dies, and the people in the village believe it’s a suicide. That’s a problem, especially because this is set in the Victorian era in which people are pretty superstitious. Suicide is also a crime, and so if he’s judged to be a suicide then his assets will go to the crown and he won’t even be allowed a proper burial.
Now, I have an unhealthy fascination with death which comes from suffering from both anxiety and depression. In particular, I find it interesting to see what the Victorians believed about death, from the way that they covered mirrors with sheets to the way that they used to use little cards with black borders around them to announce people’s death. I actually learned quite a lot about it when I visited Hughenden Manor, but it was cool to see it in a fictional context.
All in all, I wasn’t convinced of this for the first fifty pages or so, but I’m so, so glad I stuck with it. I don’t think it’s a perfect novel, but I do think it’s super atmospheric and that it’s very much worth a read. I’d suggest getting to it if you can, and I’ll be reading more Hardinge soon.