The Island of Missing Trees

The Island of Missing Trees

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022

Summary

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. The taverna It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows.

In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, their silent, surreptitious departures; and the tree will be there when the war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to rubble, when the teenagers vanish and break apart.

Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. Desperate for answers, she seeks to untangle years of secrets, separation and silence. The only connection she has to the land of her ancestors is a Ficus Carica growing in the back garden of their home.

In The Island of Missing Trees, prizewinning author Elif Shafak brings us a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, memory and amnesia, human-induced destruction of nature, and, finally, renewal.

Reviews

  • An outstanding work of breathtaking beauty
    Lemn Sissay

About the author

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British Turkish novelist whose work has been translated into fifty-five languages. The author of nineteen books, twelve of which are novels, she is a bestselling author in many countries around the world. Shafak's latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees, was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and the Women's Prize. Her previous novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the RSL Ondaatje Prize; longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award; and chosen as Blackwell's Book of the Year. She is a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. Shafak was awarded the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize for her contribution to 'the renewal of the art of storytelling.'
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