Book Club: A rich and magical tale

Starting on a small island, ending in London decades later ... a story belonging and identity, memory and trauma, nature and renewal.

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. It’s the only place that Kostas and Defne can meet in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic and chilli peppers, creeping honeysuckle, and in the centre, growing through a cavity in the roof, a fig tree.

The fig tree witnesses their hushed, happy meetings; their silent, surreptitious departures. The fig tree is there, too, when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns – a botanist, looking for native species – looking, really, for Defne.

The two lovers return to the taverna to take a clipping from the fig tree and smuggle it into their suitcase, bound for London. Years later, the fig tree in the garden is their daughter Ada’s only knowledge of a home she has never visited, as she seeks to untangle years of secrets and silence, and find her place in the world.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak is a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, memory and trauma, nature and renewal, starting with two teenagers meeting in secret on the island they call  home, going through the war and ending in London decades later, where the fig tree they’ve grown is the only thing their daughter has of their heritage. Penguin.

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Gareth Drawbridge

Digital content producer
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