The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak is Hay Festival Book of the Month for September, continuing the Festival's campaign to celebrate and ignite conversation around new books that have particular resonance for us right now.
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.
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.
The novelist joins us live online 30 September at 7.30pm while signed copies can be purchased in the Festival bookshop.
Hay Festival’s Book of the Month is selected by the festival team in Hay-on-Wye and aims to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Titles are sold in the UK through the festival’s online shop, as well as being available in all good libraries and bookshops.
Find out more about Hay Festival’s Book of the Month here or explore #HBOTM on social.