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The Island of Missing Trees: Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 Paperback – 7 April 2022
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LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE 2022
A REESE WITHERSPOON BOOK CLUB PICK
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2021
A rich, magical new novel from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World - now a top ten Sunday Times bestseller
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.
'What a wonderful read! This book moved me to tears... in the best way. Powerful and poignant' Reese Witherspoon
'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. I know it will move many readers around the world, as it moved me' Robert Macfarlane
'A wonderfully transporting and magical novel that is, at the same time, revelatory about recent history and the natural world and quietly profound' William Boyd
'This is an enchanting, compassionate and wise novel and storytelling at its most sublime' Polly Samson
'A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. THE ISLAND OF MISSING TREES is balm for our bruised times' David Mitchell
'An outstanding work of breathtaking beauty' Lemn Sissay
'A writer of important, beautiful, painful, truthful novels' Marian Keyes
'Lovely heartbreaker of a novel centered on dark secrets of civil wars & evils of extremism: Cyprus, star-crossed lovers, killed beloveds, damaged kids. Uprootings. (One narrator is a fig tree!)' Margaret Atwood on Twitter
'Elif Shafak is a unique and powerful voice in world literature' Ian McEwan
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The Island of Missing Trees, for all its uses of enchantment, is a complex and powerful work in which the harrowing material settles on the reader delicately ― FT
Poignant . . . [Shafak] knows exactly when to dangle unanswered questions, when to drench our senses, when to offer meaningful musings, elegant metaphors and tugs at the heartstrings ― Sunday Times
Compassionate and enchanting, it's a transporting tale of roots, renewal and talking trees ― Mail on Sunday, Best New Fiction
Enchanting . . . Shafak's writing is poised and expressive, remarkable for its charm and lyricism . . . The novel is a tapestry of heavy emotions, but it's one that's spun with brightness ― Sunday Telegraph, Novel of the Week
The Cyprus setting is stunningly described in this spellbinding story about identity, love and loss ― Good Housekeeping, 'this month’s 10 books to read right now’ (September)
The Island of Missing Trees is a strong and enthralling work: its world of superstition, natural beauty and harsh tribal loyalties becomes your world . . .for all its uses of enchantment, it is a complex and powerful work in which the harrowing material settles on the reader delicately ― FT
A wonderful rebuke to anthropocentric storytelling . . . Elif's extraordinary new novel about grief, love and memory ― Literary Review
The Cyprus setting is stunningly described in this spellbinding story about identity, love and loss ― Good Houskeeping, best books to read this month
This is a sweeping, romantic tale about love and loss that's so evocative you can smell honeysuckle and figs wafting from the pages ― Red, best books to read this autumn
The wounds inflicted and the search for healing across three generations is explored in the tales of its unforgettable characters . . . beyond the narrative, the author's longing to dissolve barriers between people and the natural world is evident. A beautiful read ― Woman & Home, September Book Club Pick
If Ms Shafak's subjects are sombre, her magical-realist style is anything but . . . Shafak does not shrink from the reality of violence, but she salvages tenderness - even joy - form the wreckage of 20th century history ― Economist
The Island of Missing Trees asks us important questions about losing home, about coping and secrets . . . this is a beautiful novel . . . made ferocious by its uncompromising empathy ― Guardian, Book of the Day
Booker-shortlisted Shafak (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World) amazes with this resonant story of the generational trauma of the Cypriot Civil War ― Publishers Weekly
A magical story about nature, humanity and love . . . a beautiful contemplation of some of life's biggest questions about identity, history and meaning ― Time, Anticipated Book for Fall 2021
One of the best writers in the world today ― Hanif Kureishi
A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. The Island of Missing Trees is balm for our bruised times -- David Mitchell, author of Utopia Avenue
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Penguin; 1st edition (7 April 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0241988721
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241988725
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 48 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 February 2022
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I complemented my reading with its unabridged audiobook edition, narrated by Daphne Kouma and Amira Ghazalla.
This extraordinary novel was originally published in August 2021. It has recently been shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Elif Shafak is a writer who has demonstrated her willingness to take innovative paths in her storytelling. In her latest novel this manifests by having a fig tree serving as one of the main narrative viewpoints in this tale of star-crossed lovers.
On the island of Cyprus in 1974 teenagers from opposite sides of a divided land meet at a taverna in Nicosia, the city that they both call home. The taverna is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet in secret. The taverna is named The Happy Fig and has a fig tree growing through a cavity in the roof.
The fig tree bears witness to their happy meetings and silent departures and is also there when war breaks out and the city reduced to ashes. In the aftermath the young couple are separated.
Decades later the fig tree, or rather a cutting of the original, is smuggled to England in a suitcase by Kostas, now a botanist. It eventually comes to live in his London garden. In the late 2010s sixteen-year-old Ada is aware of the fig tree’s origins. It watches over her as she seeks to untangle years of secrets and silence to find her place in the world.
Elif Shafak weaves her story through time and location in a nonlinear style. However, these shifts were noted in the chapter headings so I didn’t feel adrift. In the audiobook there was also the change in narrators that signalled the shifts.
I adored the fig tree’s accounts of her arboreal life and interactions with other parts of nature. There were also snippets of history and mythology as well as a focus on climate change. Elif Shafak’s descriptions of insects, birds, butterflies as well as trees were lyrical and this was enhanced through hearing it spoken. The poignant conclusion of the novel moved me to tears.
With respect to the audiobook, I appreciated having two narrators. I have listened to a few audiobooks read by Daphne Kouma and find her voice entrancing. She uses quite subtle shifts in inflection and accent for the novel’s various characters.
Amira Ghazalla is known for her work in film and television with only a few audiobooks credited to her. Her voice has a deep timbre, which was apt for the Fig Tree’s chapters given that the tree says that she first came into the world in 1878.
Overall, ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ was exquisitely written and proved an immersive experience. I absolutely loved it and hope that it wins the upcoming Women’s Prize for Fiction.
By Sof-ee on 16 February 2022