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-Book Review | The Lie Tree- 


by Frances Hardinge


Book Peak: The climax in the final part of the book is exciting and intense and the characters have become beautifully rounded and fully understood by this point.

Book Pit: The writing is beautiful but could equally feel over bearing, quite heavy for Young Adults as I found I had to concentrate at times.

Favourite Quote: "A rain shower was rehearsing. A few experimental droplets filled the silence."

Read if you liked: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman.



I'd never had the pleasure of reading a book by Frances Hardinge before, in fact, I had never heard of her, which I now realise is shocking. This was one of those moments when you see something and then you keep seeing it everywhere you go, so I took the hint and set about making sure I gave it a read. 

It quickly became apparent that this was an author who delighted in language and knew exactly how to make it dance across the page in beautiful prose. It took me such a long time to finish this book because I have two young children but I also wanted to devour every single word, savouring each carefully constructed sentence to acknowledge the thought that had gone into it. 

β€œListen, Faith. A girl cannot be brave, or clever, or skilled as a boy can. If she is not good, she is nothing. Do you understand?”

The Lie Tree follows young girl Faith Sunderley, the daughter of a socialite Mother and a natural scientist Father. Faith is a girl with a thirst for knowledge, but she finds herself up against the time in which she has been born and learns a lot about what is expected for a girl of her age and social standing. 


The book begins with the family upending their life in Kent in favour of a new start on the remote island of Vale. It becomes apparent that Faith and her family are running from scandal surrounding her father’s latest scientific findings. When tragedy strikes the family, Faith takes matters into her own hands. In order to uncover the mysteries surrounding her Father and save the reputation of her family, she must be covert in her attempts to manipulate those around her and find the truth. 

β€œWomen find themselves on battlefields just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.”

We are convinced of the battles that Faith has to face by Hardinge’s flawless ability to paint a perfect picture of the time. Issues such as the treatment of left-handed children and after-death photography are intricately weaved throughout the narrative to reinforce the authenticity of the storytelling. The effect of Darwin’s theories on Victorian society play a major part in setting the scene for Faith’s Reverend Father, also a fossil enthusiast who battles with the juxtaposition of his faith and the rival theories of his peers. 


β€œFaith had grown used to her father’s guests smiling, bantering and my-dear-fellow-ing over their tea, while racing their rival theories like prize ponies”


The fantasy element of the book is the inclusion of a mysterious tree, which is hard to review without revealing too much of the mystery within the story itself. It is quite fantastical but gives a great depth to the tale and makes the reader think about the role of a lie and where it can take us. 




Though this was written for Young Adults, I felt it was perfectly enjoyable for adults too. As a fan of His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman,  this felt like another example of YA fiction that can equally be enjoyed by adults. I especially felt that this would be an encouraging story of feminism for young women, showing that in adversity you can still achieve all that you put your mind to. Ultimately this is a beautifully written and brilliantly intelligent book about a strong-willed, intelligent young woman, offering an intricate story that leaves you with a satisfying conclusion.


4/5 Rating