If the trees could talk, what stories would they tell you? 

Here’s one…

Most works of fiction teach you, the reader, a fact or two. But I particularly enjoy fiction that is based around the truth and is riddled with facts. I really enjoy fiction that tells you something that you don’t know, that teaches you a new way of thinking. That has you jotting down your thoughts before you’ve even finished. Like this one did.

This is a fairly short book but it’s about so much. An ode to a homeland, those we lose, leave, love and long for. Elif Shafak writes with imagination… beautiful imagination, inspired by true events.

This is a rich tapestry of tradition, folklore and history set against a backdrop of war and healing. There are elements of magical realism, to a point, but if you put that aside and suspend your preconceptions and opinions about that as a genre, you’ll discover it’s not what it seems at all.

“He knew she was prone to bouts of melancholy…But then followed another wave and the next one… and before you knew it she was immersed in liquid pain, up to her neck, drowning. That’s how depression sucked her in.”

The stories of the missing are based upon true accounts, you can read the Authors note to find out more about that. As I was reading about the searches, the excavations of mass graves, filled during wartime atrocities, I thought ‘My goodness, this past is awful. These acts that humans committed against each other are deplorable. How we must have learnt from those times…’ Oh, but how we haven’t.

There are some brilliant book club questions at the back of the book – but the one I thought about a lot after reading was, ‘If you left your homeland and knew you wouldn’t be returning, what would you take with you?’

About the Book…

A rich, magical new book on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.

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.

Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history and eco-consciousnes.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication: August 2021

About the Author…

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

Connect with the Author…

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Buy The Book…

Have I convinced you? I hope so! You can order your copy of the Independent bookshop limited edition here.


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