I have loved every book I’ve ever read by Frances Hardinge, and I believe I have read them all, so you can imagine how squealy I was when Amazon Vine offered me the chance to review her latest book; The Lie Tree, in exchange for my unbiased opinion.
Will it really be unbiased, given how much I crush on Frances Hardinge? Unlikely. I will do my best however, despite the fact that I absolutely loved this and I actually think it is my favourite of her books.
It tells the story of Faith, a young Victorian woman whose father is both a vicar and an eminent paleontologist. It is her father who discovered a fossil like no other, the fossil of what looks to be an angel. A fossil that restores people’s shaky faith in the Bible and God as the creator.
The story opens as some scandal involving his discovery of the fossil begins to be whispered by all those who have previously revered him. To escape these troubling rumours, he packs his family off to a remote island off the coast of Britain, where he has been requested to authenticate some finds at an archaeological dig.
As soon as the family arrive on the island, things begin to go wrong, and with the death of Faith’s father, and the disintegration of the life they once took for granted, Faith is given a unique opportunity to blossom into her true self in the most uncanny and unusual of ways.
This reminded me very strongly of the novel; Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier, an adult novel which treads much of the same historical ground, and again from the point of view of a woman. Hardinge’s book differs in that it has a strong fantasy element, but if you enjoy Hardigne’s book, Chevalier’s makes a great companion novel for older/teen readers.
Hardinge mixes a thorough knowledge of a woman’s position in Victorian Britain, with a keen sense of character and a knack for writing about strange and eerie circumstances to come up with a hybrid historic/fantasy novel which is fresh, exciting and gripping.
I thought it was fantastic to have Faith as such a troubled and uncompromising heroine who questions her role in society and what women can and should be, and I love the juxtaposition of her story alongside the narrative of how the very fabric of the world was also unravelling for so many people who had previously taken the creation myths as the gospel truth. It illustrates a seismic shift in society which historically did happen, but gives it an otherworldly eeriness that only a writer like Hardinge can conjure.
This is utterly absorbing and I highly recommend it for boys and girls aged 10 plus.