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I first heard about The Lie Tree only last month at the Young Adult Literature Convention. Frances Hardinge was speaking on a panel and, along with the other panelists, gave a brief intro of herself and her latest book. She described it as a Victorian gothic novel about a tree that lives off people's lies.Whisper a lie to the tree and the more people who believe that lie, the more the tree will flourish. The tree produces a fruit for each lie, and whoever eats that fruit will learn a secret.
That was enough to hook me...that and Hardinge's fabulous hat.
So, I bought the book there and asked her to sign it. She drew me a goose. I'm still not sure why, but who says no to the offer of a goose drawing?

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of The Lie Tree. The book opens with an already gothic atmosphere--a dark and stormy day, on a boat, where people are keeping secrets.
Faith has always idolized her father, the naturalist Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, despite his steady chilliness toward her and his preferred treatment of her younger brother. With a quick mind and interest in science, Faith hopes one day to follow in her father's line of work. Unfortunately she is ahead of her time and finds herself trapped by the sexist views of the day that women are meant to be pretty, meek, and simple--not scientists.
When she finds out her father has been keeping dangerous, even life-threatening, secrets, it's up to Faith to try to save his reputation--but in the process she finds herself following in his dark footsteps.

The Lie Tree is beautifully atmospheric with vivid characters whose struggles I found very real. I found myself getting outraged along with Faith at the suffocating unfairness of the day's views of women. Hardinge does a fantastic job of creating a strong female who is able to use both her sharp intellect and society's negative perception of women's intellects to her advantage.

I also loved the mix of the real world setting and the addition of a fantastical magic tree that is never quite explained.

If I had one negative thing to say about the book it was that although the novel had several strong themes, the benightedness of men of the time and the unfair perception of women was a bit heavy handed. I don't think it was misrepresented, but it featured again and again, and I did find myself feeling the same theme could have been conveyed as strongly with a bit less restating.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes magical realism, gothic settings, and strong female characters. And, when I'm done with the stack of books I'm working through, I will look into more of Hardinge's books.


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