There’s nothing I love more than a feminist fantasy novel. Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree won the Costa Book Award in the United Kingdom, but has gone largely unnoticed in the United States – which is unfortunate, given how brilliant it is.
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.
Here are three quotes from The Lie Tree where Faith begins to question the ideals her Victorian society feeds to her – and where Hardinge’s feminist fantasy shines.
There was a hunger in her, and girls were not supposed to be hungry.
Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.
I want to be a bad example.