The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge *****

The hardest thing about writing a book is sitting down in the chair and getting on with it. You'll find anything else to do, like writing blog posts about other people's books.

Now, we all know about The Lie Tree, it won the Costa prize and became an instant bestseller. Everybody loves it, and I daren't admit last year that I hadn't read it, especially when I met the lovely Francis Hardinge.

It's been sitting in my bedside bookcase now for nearly a year. So what better time to read it than when I should be writing my own book?

Before I begin, with the beginning, I have to declare my love for this book. It's wonderful, and I heartily approve of the ending, but I am jumping ahead of myself.

Last year, I had a crazy year, and I picked this book up several times. I was tired, with no time, and could only read a page or two before falling asleep or having to do something else, and I just couldn't get into the book. I read other, easier, volumes in that time, but I struggled with the opening of The Lie Tree, and that is because it is like a Dickens novel. This is no pulp fiction. You must have time to read this book, and pay it your full attention. It will more than repay your investment. It sows its seeds and builds carefully and gradually and suddenly you are immersed in a world you cannot be dragged away from. I started this book, again, two days ago. It was chapter nine when I realised I was trapped in the world of The Lie Tree. Today I ran a bath and sat in it for four hours until I'd read the last page. If you see me walking around looking like a giant prune, blame Francis Hardinge. The only book that I have experienced this with in recent times is Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel which is one of my favourite books ever. A writer with the confidence to take their time artfully constructing a story is a writer worth reading.

One of the things I loved most about the book was Faith, the central character. I have been told by many other readers that she is unlikable to begin with, but I identified with her immediately. Her struggle is that of an intellectual young woman in a draconian Victorian patriarchal society. There, I've said it. I loved this book because it is the most beautifully written, epic, compelling, nail-biting, feminist story I've read, and I loved Faith. I am Faith. I tell lies.

Oh and that ending.... I didn't predict it or guess it. I bloody well enjoyed it.

Everybody should read this book. Bravo Costa judges. You chose well. I will be thinking about this story for a long long time.

You can buy a copy of the book from the link on the left, or you could treat yourself and buy an illustrated version with exquisite drawings by Chris Riddell. I have both. Needless to say I took the standard copy into the bath.