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Francis Hardinge - The Lie Tree (2015)

This was by turns exhiliarating and frustrating.

The writing is lovely. I kept stopping to enjoy sentences and paragraphs that were perfectly expressed and placed:

"A rain shower was rehearsing. A few experimental droplets filled the silence."

"Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither,  it seemed, were other ladies."

(That second one might be a spoiler, but I love it too much to leave it out.)

I love the overall plan of the book. A few years after the publication of The Origin of Species, the Sunderly family has moved to Vane, the island where the Reverend Erasmus Vane's deep knowledge of fossils will be of great assistance to the local gentry excavating a promising cave. Perforce he brings with him his wife, his daughter Faith, on the awkward edge between adolescence and adulthood, and young son. The harrowing events on Vane pit the incomers against the locals, the men against the women, scientific enquiry against Victorian religion. All to a science fictional ending that leaves open possibilities for the future.

Most of the action of the novel is in Faith's head, among her family, and in her conversations. All of which are perfectly satisfactory. I can believe in Faith's family, and in the inside of Faith's head.

But when Faith goes and does things, oh dear, that gets frustrating. A house that gives Faith a private exit from her bedroom? So she can go out alone in woods and beach night after wet night without ever being queried by her mother or the servants? A boat that she can row for the first time ever in a stormy sea on a rocky coastline? Really? We are in Enid Blyton territory here, and set against the excellence of the rest it really, really grates.

And worst of all, I don't believe in the lie tree itself, which would be quite at home in Innsmouth or on one of the lands of the Faraway Tree, but does not belong on Vane island.

But it all made for a rocking good story.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
pauldormer
28th Mar, 2017 10:07 (UTC)
We did this for Joms last year and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Mind you, as a left-hander, I found the treatment of the left-handed boy frightening. I know that such things happened back then, but I'm glad to say that in the fifties and sixties, no-one tried to make me change.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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