My Greek Books
My Greek Books time is here! I’ve been so laser-focused on finalizing my own manuscript, that I haven’t had much time to read. But this month, I did get to read two outstanding books, one fiction and one non-fiction. Keep reading to learn about this month’s picks for My Greek Books.
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The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
Bloomsbury Publishing (November 2, 2021)
I’d read a few articles about this book by Award-winning British-Turkish Novelist Elif Shafak. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but my interest piqued enough to give it a go. The author of 19 books, including 12 novels, does not disappoint. The 350+ page tome is definitely worth the time.
About The Island of Missing Trees
Two teenagers, one Greek-Cypriot and the other Turkish-Cypriot, fall in love, pre-1974 invasion. Their forbidden romance is centered around The Happy Fig Taverna, where an unlikely couple/co-owners allow them a place to meet undetected. From the parrot that lives in the space, to the fig tree that occupies the heart of the taverna, each has a story to tell.
The story begins in more modern times, with Kostas and his daughter Ada. Both are mourning her mother’s death in their own way. Ada doesn’t know much about her parents’ lives before her, or their homeland. That changes when her mother’s sister, whom she’s never met, comes to visit. We learn about the past through alternating chapters about her parents’ early years and present day.
When the war breaks out, life is turned upside down. Neighbors are pitted against each other, family members are split up, and in some cases, are missing. Kostas’ mother sends him to his uncle in London, just before the war begins. Defne wonders what happened to him. Each embarks on a new life, amidst the chaos of their homeland, and their broken hearts. Kostas becomes a botanist, and later travels to Cyprus to study trees—but really to search for a lost love.
In London, Kostas and Ada’s only connection to Cyprus is a fig tree growing in their garden, a cutting from a beloved island tree. The personified tree also has a story to tell, describing how her life became intertwined with this family. And connects it back to reveal the past to help heal the future.
My Greek Books Review of The Island of Missing Trees
Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees is a beautifully, soulfully written story of life, love, war, complex identities, history, and more. I love how she brought the fig tree to life. It really made me see trees in a new way—almost human. The trees see so much and hold the secrets in their own hidden repository. If only they could share them. The book highlights many Turkish customs, some I never knew of, that are surprisingly the same as Greek. There are so many sage words of wisdom here. I love this passage, referencing the poet Cavafy:
“… You think you can leave your native land because so many people have done it, so why shouldn’t you? After all, the world is full of immigrants, runaways, exiles … Encouraged, you break free and travel as far as you can, then one day you look back and realize it was coming with you all along, like a shadow. Everywhere we go, it will follow us, this city, this island.”~ Elif Shafak in The Island of Missing Trees
At different points when Defne relates some tragedy to Kostas, he often asks, “Were they Greeks or Turks?” Defne always responds:
“They are islanders, like us.”Elif Shafak in The Island of Missing Trees
When it comes to the Greek/Turkish relationship, it’s complicated. And that complicated relationship plays out every day in modern times. On Cyprus, this tumult is part of their fabric, in a place where Greeks and Turks not too long ago, lived peaceably. Elif Shafak makes this tangled story human. Like a tree’s roots, this story grows together, intertwines, and bridges. She reminds us that when we come from the same place, we are more similar than not. Definitely add this one to your list.
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Modern Greece Edited by Elaine Thomopoulos, PhD
ABC-CLIO (November 5, 2021)
About Modern Greece
The newest volume in the ‘Understanding Modern Nations’ series that has included China, Spain, Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil is a comprehensive study in modern-day Greece. Elaine Thomopoulos, PhD has edited several other books, including History of Greece (The Greenwood Histories of Modern Nations), Greek-American Pioneer Women of Illinois, and more.
There are many books on the history of Greece, whether ancient history, the Greek revolution, or even early 20th century. But this book serves as an encyclopedia of a more modern country. For context, there is a chapter about history as well as chapters on geography, government and politics, the economy, religion, ethnicity, the arts, etiquette, food, and pop culture. And so much more. There’s even a chapter with “glimpses” into daily life, called “A Day in the Life”.
My Greek Books Review of Modern Greece
This rich volume offers so much. In Modern Greece, Elaine Thomopoulos presents insight into today’s Greece, from its ancient and historical influences to today’s world. Greece’s story is long, rich, and colorful. There’s so much to learn, to savor, to experience. There’s something here for the Greek who’s well-versed on their culture or who wants to learn, as well as interested people of other backgrounds, and those studying Greece. With 401 pages, you’ll reference this book for years to come. Add this one to your collection.
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My Greek Books—March 2022 Edition
That’s it for the March edition of My Greek Books. I hope you enjoyed learning about this month’s picks. I’ve already started some exciting new reads. Check back next month to find out. Happy Reading!