Title: The Island of Missing Trees
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Literary Fiction/ Romance
Goodreads Rating: 4.20
Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.
Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.
This is one of those books that I have seen floating around on social media and was keen to read. Luckily for me it was chosen as the Bert’s Book Club’s August read so I got myself a copy and dived in.
Having not read anything by Elif Shafak before I went in not really knowing what to expect. What I found initially was a story that was unusual. I will admit it did take me a while to get into as the way the story was structured and written was different to what I’m used to but I persevered with it and I’m glad that I did.
Elif Shafak beautifully explores the history in Cyprus and on reflection I can’t believe that this is the first that I have come across the civil war in my collection, I definitely need to expand my history section! The back and forth between the timelines kept the pace of the story going and kept me intrigued enough to want to keep reading.
Kostas and Defne’s love story is our modern day Romeo & Juliet. From their blossoming romance to the heartbreak they both endured during the war, to their timely end was told with such sensitivity and honesty that you can’t help but feel heartbroken for them both and Ada.
This is not one of those books that you can absorb in one sitting, at least for me it wasn’t. The further I got in the more I wanted to savour the words and reflect on what I’d read. I know want to go back through and highlight some of the beautifully passages because the writing is sublime.