The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak (hardback, August 2021)
£14.99It 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. 'A brilliant novel -- one that rings with Shafak's characteristic compassion for the overlooked and the under-loved, for those whom history has exiled, excluded or separated.