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Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree was the perfect read for my summer holidays in Catania last week. The book is fast paced with some good suspense and plot development. At the core of the narrative is a scientific discovery: a tree that will give you truth and knowledge through its fruits if you feed it lies. This thirst for power and thus knowledge goes back to biblical times of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge. Yet Hardinge adds a few twists to this story.
Faith’s father, Erasmus Sunderly, discovers the tree in Asia and after searching and doing his own share of lies and deception he secures the tree for himself. He brings the tree with him to a remote island where he was asked to participate in an archeological dig. However, not long after his arrival he turns up dead. People assume he committed suicide, yet Faith his eldest daughter thinks otherwise and she goes on a journey to discover the mysteries of the lie tree and by doing so figures out who killed her father.
In order to make the lie tree bare fruit, someone must whisper a lie to the tree and then tell that lie in the real world. The more people who believe the lie the more knowledge and truth will be gained from the eating the fruit. The insidious nature of the tree is that it feeds off lies but that it’s power to tell truths is a lie. Thus the power of the tee is a lie and rather than feeding off lies, I believe it’s true power comes from feeding off chaos. Faith begins to spread lies throughout the island that allow the tree to bare bitter fruits for her to eat but rather than give her knowledge the tree gives her just a bit of truth mixed in strange dreams to keep her hooked. As the lies progress chaos unfolds on the island and the tree prospers.
When Faith finally figures out who her father’s killer was, she too is almost killed. The lie tree had become so desired that people were willing to murder. Faith’s showdown with her father’s killers happen in the cave where the plant was originally hidden. As she escapes though the tree tries to pull her in with its branches and begins to whispers things to her. I half wonder if the tree was trying to consume her?
Hardinge’s novel asks us to question our relationship with lies and our pursuit of knowledge. If our goals hurt and literally the kill the people around us, then have we not lost our humanity? Is there a limit to what we should trust and who we should trust?
If you are looking for a suspenseful summer read then this is a great book. Have you read any other good books this summer? As always, share the reading love.