Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Island of Missing Trees (Elif Shafak)

How human a tree can be…


Title: The Island of Missing Trees
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
First published: 2021
Edition: Hardback, published by Viking in 2021

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.


I have not read a book by Elif Shafak yet that I did not love. There is something so human about her writing, something so easy to connect and related to, even I have never gone through the things her characters have been through. I have never been to Cyprus. I have never lived through civil war, but she made me feel the anguish, the torn hearts of its inhabitants. That is what I love about Shafak’s writing – the life she breathes into the people populating her novels.

This novel is set in two main timelines, one in Cyprus in the 1970s and one in the 2010s in England. It explores how the past still resonates in the present and future generations. Events are also part told through a fig tree, which I enjoyed a lot. It gave an angle to the story, which was both apart and very much interwoven. It just added an extra layer.

I knew that there had been conflict in Cyprus of course and that it was split in two halves, but I had not really read anything about it before. Novels like these both educate and humanize. They are so important. This felt like a novel that has something to say whilst being immensely enjoyable. I loved it.

I will be reading more novels by this author in the near future, that’s for sure!

7 out of 7 stars


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