Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

This one felt a bit like doing my homework before it was even set. I’d read this before the shortlist was announced.  It was an impulse purchase in WHSmith when I was a little befuddled by the hugeness of Westfield in Stratford.  And when I am feeling befuddled, the smell of a new book can help to anchor me to somewhere I feel safe, since there is always a new book smell somewhere in my house! Anyway, this one had won a prize in a competition that wasn’t just for children’s books, which is pretty amazing.  I had been rather nervously looking for a book to recommend to my book group; nervously because what if everyone else in the group thought it was rubbish? What if all the books I like are terrible?  Will I get kicked out of Book Group?  I decided that if this book was good enough to win a prize that wasn’t a horribly literary prize for boring books, then I’d probably be OK.

To cut a long story short, The Lie Tree is rather fab.  It also has the benefit of not being about racism or lesbians, so the questions from my eldest offspring will probably be more along the lines of “what does vehemently mean?”, which are, on the whole, easier to deal with during her brother’s bath-time than “but why were the Southern states of America in the 1950s structurally racist?”

The Lie Tree is about feminism, but not in an ISSUES way, in quite a clever, woven into the story kind of way. It tells the story of Faith, daughter of a famous scientist, who is embroiled in a mystery as to why her previously esteemed father has been disgraced. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Age 11+, but the language is difficult and old-fashioned, so for strong readers or one for parents to read out loud.  Not for the very nervous.

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