Category Archives: Book Shops

Diana’s Autumn Book Review (7) ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak

Why did you choose this book?

I was browsing in Waterstones and was drawn firstly by the title, which was intriguing and also mentioned an island; pertinent following my recent series of Islands of Inspiration. Secondly I loved the cover and finally, when I turned the novel over, I read David Mitchel’s review:

“A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. The Island of Missing Trees is balm for our bruised times.”

Wow, I thought. I already felt in tune with the author and the themes of the novel, even before I’d opened the first chapter. They were themes akin to my own writing, leading to immediate empathy before I had a chance to absorb myself in the magic of this book; one which is truly remarkable.

Did I feel empathy to any particular character?

I’d often thought of trees as special; the way they oversee happenings in their sturdy, solid form; patient and ancient. To have a fig tree as a character bowled me away. I was hooked!

Yes, I loved the love story of two teenagers from different backgrounds; Turk and Greek. The tension of forbidden friendship, let alone passion and so I felt so in tune with Daphne as she sneaked out of her home to meet Kostas in war torn Cyprus, the love of her life.

Is there a lasting thought or memory from the book which remains with you long after the novel is finished?

So many that it is hard to describe them without being a spoiler.

There’s the fig tree of course, whose thoughts transcend cultural divide and prejudices. Its survival, against the odds, whose story I will not elaborate on here. I want you to be as delighted as I was as you read.

There was tragedy and loss and yet an overriding dream that love will prevail, however hopeless it may seem.

There are very few books which you are reluctant to leave behind you as you turn the final pages. As you close the novel for the last time a sense of loss overwhelms you; You are truly bereft ~ ‘The Island of the Missing Trees’ is one of those books.

Brilliantly written, evocative of the times depicted therein.

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Diana’s Summer Book Reviews (4) Songbirds by Christy Lefteri

Why did I choose this book?

I noticed the striking cover first in Kirkcaldy Waterstones, followed by honing in on the intriguing title ‘Songbirds’ and the blurb, which instinctively drew me in. It also continued my Greek flavour since it was set in Cyprus.

Did I feel empathy for a particular character?

Although Nisha was rarely far from my thoughts as I was reading ~ Where was she? Why was she missing? Was she safe? ~ it was Petra who struck a chord with me. She realised that, even after having Nisha in her house, helping to run their lives and looking after her child for so many years, once she had disappeared Petra knew very little about her ‘maid.’ Isn’t that true of many of our relationships with people? How many of them are superficial? More recently, we have found the quality of our friendships has been enhanced by actually going away together; having enough time to really talk about issues which matter to us and find out what we have in common.

Petra, however, really cared about Nisha, even when the authorities were dismissive about ‘foreign workers’ disappearing. That made Petra even more determined to find Nisha or to discover what happened to her. She was devastated by Nisha vanishing so suddenly. Was she safe? I felt every anguish and heartbreak along the way.

Is there a lasting thought or memory from the book which remains with me long after the novel is finished?

Several questions really, about the meaning of life? Do we only really value people when they are gone from our lives? How many of our friends and acquaintances do we really know and understand? Who do we take for granted? A haunting book, certainly.

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Diana’s summer book reviews (2)Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein

Why did I choose this book?

I didn’t choose it for myself, but as a small Christmas present for my husband to get him in the mood for travelling to Greece and also to think about life. He didn’t read it. It sat beside his bed for ages and so I decided to take it with us and read it myself.

The premise of the memoir is the author’s search for the meaning of life and the pleasures to be pursued in old age. He did this by revisiting the Greek island of Hydra, where he spent some memorable months when he was a young man. He also reflects on life by reading the works of various philosophers over the centuries, including Epicurus who he quotes frequently, as he tries to glean hidden truths as well as the obvious ones.

Did you feel empathy for any particular character?

To be honest, and I’m being sexist here I know, a man would probably identify with Daniel in his search more then I did and greatly enjoy his travel writing and reflection on life. I also tried to read it through my husband’s eyes. Having said that it set the scene for me, in that there we were on a small Greek Island enjoying the freedom after lock down but also thinking ‘what next?’ ~ when we were not just ‘being’!

Is there a lasting thought or memory of the book which remains with you?

The value of companionship “Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live ones entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship” ~ Epicurus.

I actually bought the book in Waterstones, Princess Street, Edinburgh, since I try to support my local bookshops.

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