The Island of Missing Trees

Hardback edition released 05/08/2021

by Elif Shafak

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction

The Island of Missing Trees Synopsis

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.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780241434994
Publication date: 5th August 2021
Author: Elif Shafak
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Primary Genre Literary Fiction
Other Genres:

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Elif Shafak Press Reviews

The Island of Missing Trees is a magical masterpiece . . . Elif Shafak has done it again with this brilliant novel of the secrets of hearts, the history of Cyprus and the beauty of memory. Truly full of miracles. -- Kate Williams 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

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

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 writer of important, beautiful, painful, truthful novels. I LOVED The Island of Missing Trees, about the singular agony of civil war, about displaced people & unexpectedly the hope that can survive -- Marian Keyes

At once intimate in tone and ambitious in its reach, The Island of Missing Trees is a novel that moves with the urgency of a mystery as it uncovers the story of lovers divided first by war and then, after they are reunited and have a child, by that same war's enduring psychic wounds. But there is tenderness and humor in this tale, too, and the intense readerly pleasures of a narrative that dances from the insights of ecological science to Greek myth and finally to their surprising merger in what might be called-natural magic -- Siri Hustvedt

This is an enchanting, compassionate and wise novel and storytelling at its most sublime. Though rooted in bloody atrocity it sings to all the senses -- 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

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 One of the best writers in the world today - Hanif Kureishi

A beautiful novel about the broken island of Cyprus and its wounded and scarred inhabitants, The Island of Missing Trees teaches us that brokenness can only be healed by love. -- Bernhard Schlink

This is a beautiful book that will entrance your imagination and capture your soul -- Kate Williams

An outstanding work of breathtaking beauty. I have been transfixed & transformed by a transcendent storyteller. -- Lemn Sissay

A book to be cherished and savoured -- Naomi Klein

Shafak evocatively tells the couple's 40-year love story through a fast-paced narrative that moves between the past and present...the book explores the lasting impact the war had on Cyprus and the natural world - the displacement, the disappearances and destruction - while also revealing the tender efforts of the island to heal and regrow - New Statesman

A kind of paean to the beauty and diversity of Cyprus...this is a colourful and impassioned work, original in the ways it retells and reconstructs painful pasts - The i

Narrated in part by a wise fig tree, Shafak explores love, grief, war and transgenerational trauma in an elegiac and powerfully rendered novel - Observer

An epic tale about love, grief and memory set in Cyprus and London between 1974 and the late 2010s - Spectator

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780241988725
Publication date: 07/04/2022
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780241434994
Publication date: 05/08/2021
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9780241435007
Publication date: 05/08/2021
Format: Paperback

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About Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read female writer in Turkey. Critics have acclaimed her as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary literature in both Turkish and English. Her novels include The Bastard of Istanbul which was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages. She is married with two children, and divides her time between London and Istanbul. Her website is   Author photo © Muammer Yanmaz

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