Book Club: The Lie Tree

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xthe-lie-tree_jpg_pagespeed_ic_JbhHQYtNjIThis evening, Girls Zone Book Club will be meeting to discuss our latest read, ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge. This was a mature read for our group, particularly so early on in the year – but as it recently won the Costa award and had come so highly recommended, we jumped in and gave it a go! This Book Club is a group I run for Year Six students and a significant woman in their life – mother, aunt, grandma, older sister, cousin, family friend…even a dad or uncle will do. It is an opportunity to talk, laugh and learn through a shared love of reading. I now work at a girls school, but I have also run this club as a Father/Son book club at a boys school at which I worked.

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

I’m interested to hear the reactions of the younger readers and then to see how the mothers found it, given many of them admitted that historical fantasy was not really their thing (nor is it mine!). Whatever the consensus on the ‘The Lie Tree’ ends up being, one thing is for certain, this is powerful and evocative prose for readers of all ages to connect with. Frances Hardinge’s written is rich in detail but remains a gripping read. The themes of women’s place in society, evolution, nature v nurture, and the nature of lying are all explored in depth and will not doubt provide some interesting discussion this evening.

Discussion Points

  • Discuss the following two statements, made to Faith, and her reaction to them:

“Listen, Faith. A girl cannot be brave, or clever, or skilled as a boy can. If she is not good, she is nothing. Do you understand?”

“too much intellect would spoil and flatten [the female mind] like a rock in a soufflé”.

  • In contrast to the statements above, Faith’s mother tells her:

“Women find themselves on battlefields just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.”

  • Discuss this statement and how/if Faith and her mother enact this.
  • How does the author effectively build a picture of the historical context in which this book is set?
  • Discuss:

“A lie was like a fire … A slight breath would fan the new-born flames, but too vigorous a huff would blow it out”; whereas some lies had “a life and shape of their own, and there was no controlling them”.

  • Discuss what you think are the central themes of the book.
  • Was this a satisfying read for you? What did you enjoy or not enjoy about this novel?
  • Discuss why you think this book recently won the Costa award and if you think this win was deserved.
  • Is this a book for children or for adults? Why?
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