The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree is YA fiction, but borderline enough that a colleague who’s read it (not usually a YA reader) got about halfway through before she realised it was YA. By Frances Hardinge, who I had never heard of but who I am definitely going to read more of, The Lie Tree is a creepy cautionary tale set around the turn of the century (ish – I may be wrong about that!) when science was on the rise but women weren’t (yet).

Although the titular metaphor does have all the subtlety of a brick at times (we get it; lies grow like weeds and flourish in the dark), I thoroughly enjoyed the story all the same. I enjoyed Faith’s struggle with wanting to learn and yet being expected, as a girl, to be seen and not heard. I enjoyed watching her navigate her complex relationship with her father, and I really enjoyed the creepy image of the Mendacity Tree. I could see why it was the Costa Book of the Year!

The feminism is a light undertone (so if you, dear reader, get fed up about me banging on about it, don’t worry!) but what really sold me on this story was the delicious creepiness of the whole. I’m looking forward to more gothic fiction from this author!

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