The Island of Missing Trees. Elif Shafak

Young Ada has recently lost her mother Defne. Her father Kostas tries to make the best of it, but risks losing his connection with his daughter. Fortunately, Ada's mother's sister Meryem appears on the scene. In the garden is a fig tree. And not just any fig tree. In The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak tells the story of Kostas and Defne, a love story between a Greek boy and a Turkish girl on the island of Cyprus. The story is largely set during the turmoil of the 1970s, which was followed by the division of the island into a Greek and a Turkish part.

A large part is told from the perspective of a fig tree. This fig tree used to stand in the middle of a tavern in Nicosia, the capital of Greece. From that spot, the tree was informed about everything that happened in the country; on the one hand, through the visitors and the owners of the tavern, but on the other hand through other trees, plants and animals. Kostas and Defne move to England where they can really be together. They take a cutting from the fig tree with them. The tree gets a new life in London, where it will form an invisible bond with Ada.

Here we recognise the fate of author Elif Shafak. As an author of Turkish origin, she had to leave her country. She is no longer welcome there. In the acknowledgements, she writes that if she had known she would never see Istanbul again, she would have wanted to take a Mediterranean tree in her luggage on that very last trip. If only that had been possible...

The Island of Missing Trees is a beautiful book that immediately taught me a lot about Cyprus. Yes, I knew that the island had both Turkish and Greek inhabitants, and I also knew that it had once been a British colony, but apart from that I knew absolutely nothing about Cyprus. Strange really, because the country is not that far away, and the all-destructive war was not that long ago. For that reason alone, I would recommend this book to anyone.

Apart from being an educational book, it is also a deep and warm book. Heartbreaking at times, but above all warm and hopeful. Despite everything, there are still people who want to do something for others and who do not allow themselves to be led by xenophobia. There is love in this book and at the same time also an indictment. Or no, an appeal. To everyone who wants to hear it: Cyprus is not made up of Greeks and Turks, no, Cyprus is made up of islanders.

Finally, the important place that nature occupies in this latest book by Shafak. Beautiful descriptions of nature, animals and especially their behaviour and a touch of magical realism. We can never be sure, but I too believe that a tree has some kind of consciousness. Shafak gives us one more tip, which I will not withhold from you. Use it to your advantage: "And for when you need to learn to let go of what you cannot control, [find] a birch with its white-silver bark, peeling and shedding layers like old skins. Then again, if it's love you're after, or love you have lost, come to the fig, always the fig." Elise Prins-Kleuskens