Young Adult Title Wins Costa Book of the Year Award 2015

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on March 19, 2016 in Libraries

Frances Hardinge was the surprise winner of The Costa Book of Year, with her young adult book The Lie Tree. She became the second YA author to receive the award. Philip Pullman, also won the award in 2005., for The Amber Spyglass. Hardinge has being making waves as a YA writer, the winning title is […]

Frances Hardinge was the surprise winner of The Costa Book of Year, with her young adult book The Lie Tree. She became the second YA author to receive the award. Philip Pullman, also won the award in 2005., for The Amber Spyglass.

Hardinge has being making waves as a YA writer, the winning title is her seventh book. All her books have eerie and unreal atmosphere and fantasy-adventure themes.

The win is of great importance for YA writing and should draw attention to Young Adult books. She triumphed over notable adult authors like Kate Atkinson-“A god in Ruins”.

In an interview with Children’s Books Ireland Inis magazine, in 2014, she said “ I have always loved tricksters and characters who find a way to live outside the usual rules…..i am not a fan of CHOSEN ONES, or individuals who are given everything they need by Destiny. I want a protagonist who picks Destiny’s pocket, or find loopholes in an unwinnable game”

She herself, was brought up in weird Gothic style houses, and draws inspiration for her books, from superstitions and ghostly stories, and from world of Science, Religion and History. She has always had a fascination for macabre and chilling experiences. Many who have reviewed “THE LIE TREE” say they have difficulty describing it. It has multi- layered, themes. It can fall into fantasy, detective, history, coming of age issues. Yet is very realistic and perfectly crafted together, with very stylish prose.

The novel is set in Victorian Britain, 1860s , in a Post Darwin society. There is a clash between science and religion about the origins of the earth. Faith, the protagonist of the story is 14 years old and an aspiring Natural Scientist like her father. Faith adores her father who is a stern clergyman. But he sees her as a liability, and an unnecessary expense, in his home and no substitute for the 5 sons he has lost. After all, this the mid Victorian era, thought of as the golden age of scientific and technical progress, where the emphasis was on what men could do. The thinking at the time was built on fiction, that a man’s brain was bigger than a woman’s, and that only men could encompass new thinking and related pursuits.

Faith will no longer allow herself to fit into this mould. She is an unlikely heroine. She has been seen up to now as lady like,dependable and dull. She listens to the adult conversations about science and that if she gives an opinion it is ignored, even if she is right.

Now that she is 14 she realises that parents are not infallible and also that women can become scientists or have any role they want. She is now conscious that women’s role in society should not be seen, as inferior to that of men.

When her family have to leave London, in a hurry, they end up in Vane, a small isolated community in the Isle of Sark. There is a scandal surrounding, her father’s scientific work. Many treat some of his findings as fabrications. Even though he is a reputable Natural Scientist. Faith does not know why they have to leave. But news of the scandal reaches the isolated community that they now live in. They find themselves been ostracised. When her father is found dead at the foot of a cliff, it is seen as a suicide, but Faith is not convinced and believes her father has been murdered. She turns detective and while going through his belongings, she finds a strange plant called THE LIE TREE. She believes that the tree, is in some way connected to his death. Then she realises that she has seen a sketch of it in her father’s journal. This she believes was the great secret that lead to their banishment, followed by her father’s death. The truth lies in his possession of the tree. The efforts others will go to, to possess it, is the at the core of this mystery.

The tree feeds off lies that are whispered to it and it in turn it produces berries of truth, which cause a trance like state when eaten.. Faith goes around telling untruths that spread like wildfire. Then she whispers them to the tree. She discovers that one lie can be more explosive than the truth. She will do anything to solve the mystery and gain revenge.

She hides the tree in a cave across the water from the village and goes to and fro to the tree to eat the berries, that cause a trance in which details of her father’s murder are revealed to her. As the mystery is solved, Faith has changed as a person. She realises that real life can often be about lies and gossip and scandal. No one is being honest with each other. She tries to decide what is and what is not real. She becomes entangled in her own lies. She is amazed to find that she is also capable of untruths, just like adults.

The book is also about her rite of passage from child to adulthood. It draws on Fantasy, History, Feminism and Murder and Gender issues. It looks at the ways that women have been made invisible. It is a path by which she establishes her identity and her place in the world. Today social media is used as a way used to establish identities, how people like to be perceived by others. While The Lie Tree is set in this early period in 1860s England, she is no different from young people using Facebook today. She harnesses the power of the eponymous tree to untangle the mystery and helps her to find her true self and where she fits in society.

By Skerries Library Bloggers

You can reserve a copy of The Lie Tree from Fingal Libraries here.


One of the judges said ”We are surprised, not that it is a good book, as it brilliantly articulates what goes on in a clever 14 year’s old brain., but the judges also recognise how great an author, Frances Hardinge, really is.”

Young Adult books are now commanding 29% of the book market in Ireland and 24% in the UK, according to Nielsen Bookscan. Many YA titles are been made into film and there are many new Young Adult authors, coming on stream.

This is an important book for young adult readers. and adults alike . It is memorable and merits a second read, but you must read it for yourself first, to find out how the plot unravels!

You will be amazed at the various twists and turns and the many cliffhangers. The outcome is totally unpredictable as a good book should be!