The Island of Missing Trees Elif Shafak

Today I’m celebrating the Cheltenham Literature festival by being part of this amazing blog tour reviewing The Island of Missing Trees by the fabulous author Elif Shafak.



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, memory and amnesia, human-induced destruction of nature, and, finally, renewal.


The Island of Missing Trees, is from the author Booker shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist whose work has been translated into 54 languages and is the top 10 Sunday Times Bestseller. All of the six chapters are beautiful written.

Prologue Island

PART ONE How to Bury a Tree



PART FOUR Branches

PART FIVE Ecosystem

PART SIX How to unbury a Tree

I loved all of the chapters, where there was plenty that amazed me about the literature fiction.

In the chapter Fig Tree there was something that really grabbed my attention as this kind of thing really does happen in real life.

Extract from The Island of Missing Trees: chapter Fig Tree

It was he, after all, who had brought me to this sunless country from Cyprus, hidden inside a black leather suitcase. I was, if truth be told, smuggled on to the European continent.

At Heathrow airport, as Kostas pulled the suitcase past the gaze of a burly custom officer, I tensed, expecting him to be stopped and searched any second. His wife meanwhile, walked ahead of us, her stride brisk, purposeful and impatient as always. Define was pregnant with Ada at the time, though they did not yet know it. They thought they were bringing only me into England, unaware that they were also bringing their unborn child.

When the arrivals doors opened wide, Kostas exclaimed, unable to control the excitement in his voice. “We’re here, we made it, we made it! Welcome to your new home.

Was he talking to his wife or was he talking to me? I’d like to think it was the latter. Either way, that was more than sixteen years ago. I have never been back to Cyprus since.

I still carry the Island with me, though. The places where we were born are the shape of our lives, even when we are away from them.


Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and was Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. The Architect’s Apprentice was chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall’s inaugural book club, The Reading Room.


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