I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy - a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.
In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father's possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father's murder - or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.
The May selection for my real-life book club. The verdict? We liked it a lot. As one member said, it started out kind of depressing with all of the women seemingly held back and held down by a repressive society and the men in their lives. But as the story progressed, I realized that just like weeds, the women of the tale were strong enough to find their way to some control by growing up through the cracks!
There’s a fair amount of darkness and duplicity in the work. I guess with a title like The Lie Tree that is unavoidable. Faith Sunderly demonstrates that peculiarity of human nature—she cares much more about the opinion of her odious, abusive father than for her mother who she despises as “less than.” And in doing so, she despises herself for being that ultimate “less than,” a girl. She believes in her father’s uprightness until she discovers his special possession, the Lie Tree. A plant which feeds on lies and the more people who believe them, the better the plant grows.
When her father is killed (and her family is due to be disinherited because he is believed to be a suicide), Faith takes matters into her own hands—she tells the tree what it wants to hear and it grows much more luxuriantly that it ever did under her father’s care.
I loved the book for Faith’s realization of her worthiness and intelligence and the resilience of all the women to resist the patriarchal control in their society. I’m looking forward to reading more by Frances Hardinge.