The island of missing trees
By Elif Shafak
In Cyprus there is a religious divide between the Christian Greeks and the Muslim Turks. Both communities avoid “mixed” relationships. In Cyprus of the time, there is also a hatred of the gay community.
The novel is about forbidden love.
The main characters in the story are Kostas (Greek) and Defne (Turkish) who fall in love and have to meet secretly to avoid condemnation from their families. This is a Romeo and Juliet relationship.
The second relationship is between a gay couple Yiorghos and Yousouf. (who also have a mixed Greek and Turkish relationship.)
Yiorghos and Yousouf own a tavern called the Happy Fig because it has a large fig tree growing inside it and projecting through the roof. The Happy Fig Tavern is in Nicosia, somewhere along the Green Line, an UN-controlled strip of land that prevents Greeks and Turks from killing one another.
Kostas and Defne keep their trysts a secret by meeting at the Happy Fig with the blessing of Yiorghos and Yousouf who provide them with a private room.
Kostas and Defne are ripped apart by the war and Yiorghos and Yousouf are murdered for being gay and their bodies are dumped in well.
The story is partly through the fig tree in the Happy Fig and by a cutting of the fig tree and taken to England by Kostas
Kostas and Defne are finally reunited.
This is a strangely constructed book but well worth reading. Four Stars from me.
Review by Andrew R Williams