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The Island of Missing Trees: Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Of The Year Award

The Island of Missing Trees: Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Of The Year Award by Elif Shafak

As seen:

  • Women's Prize for Fiction 2022

By Elif Shafak

avg rating

3 reviews

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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, nature, and, finally, renewal.


29 Nov 2021

A very different narrative to what I’m used to but a very interesting story.

05 Nov 2021


Ever heard a fig tree speak? The one in The Island of Missing Trees narrates much of the book assisted by bees, butterflies, mosquitoes and mice, it sounds whacky but it really isn't. It's s beautiful love story that starts in 1970's Cyprus in during the civil war and concludesvinn2000's London. Horrid things happen but overall it's a gentle, heartwarming tale about Cyprus and her history, about love and loss, tolerance (and lack of) and belonging, of human nature and a love of the natural world. Highly recommended.

18 Jul 2021

A short snap shot of Cyprus and the wars between the different countries and religions who lived there. This story tells the tale of unacceptable love beautifully. Two young people who find each other but know their families would never agree to their love, their journey through separation, reconnection and finally being together. This story hurts your heart. How much loss and suffering people have gone through, in the name of war-it’s so sad.
This book is very unique as it holds two main viewpoints. That of the forbidden lovers and their families and that of a fig tree that witnessed everything. This voice of the fig is such a level Headed view - the history it has seen, the insight it has, is amazing. I’ve never thought of what the plants around us may think.
A really beautifully written book- a real insight in to Cyprus during a very painful time in history.

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