This October we’ll be welcoming the wonderful Elif Shafak, author of the Booker-Shortlisted 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World and the bestselling The Architect’s Apprentice. Elif joins us to discuss her new novel The Island of Missing Trees, a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, and nature and renewal.
It tells the tale of two teenagers, one Greek Cypriot and the other Turkish Cypriot, who meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. The taverna is 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.