In brief: The Island of Missing Trees; Tunnel 29; Vesper Flights – review

A powerful novel with a Cypriot backdrop, the thrilling story of a cold war escape and astute essays from nature writer Helen Macdonald

The Island of Missing Trees

Elif Shafak
Viking, £14.99, pp368

Sixteen-year-old Ada is mourning the recent loss of her mother and remains disturbed by her parents’ refusal to talk about their Cypriot heritage. Interspersed with Ada’s story is that of her parents’ courtship, set against the backdrop of the 1974 conflict. Narrated in part by a wise fig tree, Shafak explores love, grief, war and transgenerational trauma in an elegiac and powerfully rendered novel.

Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall

Helena Merriman
Hodder, £20, pp336

Based on the successful BBC podcast, Merriman tells the story of a group of East German engineering students who, in 1962, built a secret tunnel beneath the Berlin Wall and helped 29 people escape to the west. Focusing on one student in particular, Joachim Rudolph, it’s an audacious and compelling tale, told with narrative tension and novelistic drive, creating a fascinating portrayal of life in Berlin in the early days of the wall.

Vesper Flights

Helen Macdonald
Vintage, £9.99, pp272 (paperback)

The Costa Book award-winner’s collection of essays should, she says, be treated as a Wunderkammer: a collection of curiosities, idiosyncratically compiled. There are essays on a fascination with birds’ nests that she developed in childhood, on the visceral experience of witnessing a total eclipse and on birdwatching from the top of the Empire State Building. Macdonald has a wonderful gift for exploring the intersection between nature and our experience of it, in writing that is both lyrical and impassioned.

• To buy The Island of Missing Trees, Tunnel 29 or Vesper Flights go to Delivery charges may apply


Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Checkpoint Charlie by Iain MacGregor review – Berlin’s secrets and spies
This rich collection of stories from cold war Berlin captures the city’s many complexities

Neal Ascherson

27, Oct, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean – review

Rory MacLean's history of Berlin encompasses five centuries in vivid, imaginative detail, writes Clare Wigfall

Clare Wigfall

23, Feb, 2014 @11:00 AM

Article image
In brief: Turning the Tide on Plastic; A Long Island Story; A Life of My Own – reviews
Lucy Siegle tackles our plastic habit, a McCarthy-era novel lacks pace, while biographer Claire Tomalin tells her own engrossing story

Hannah Beckerman

22, Jul, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
In brief: Reservoir 13; Nefertiti’s Face; Restless Souls – review
Jon McGregor’s interesting take on crime in the community, a breezy history of the Egyptian queen by Joyce Tyldesley and an enjoyable first tragicomic novel from Dan Sheehan

Ben East

21, Jan, 2018 @11:59 AM

Article image
In brief: Walking the Great North Line; All Our Broken Idols; The Farm – review
A marvellous tour of British landmarks, an archaeological mystery and a dystopian satire about a ‘gestation retreat’

Ben East

31, May, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
In brief: Five Tuesdays in Winter; The Treeline; Islands of Abandonment – review
A short story collection full of emotional epiphanies, an investigation into trees on the move, and an exploration of abandoned places

Hannah Beckerman

02, Jan, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Mother: A Memoir; Catherine House; Upheaval – review
Nicholas Royle explores the parent-child bond, Elisabeth Thomas serves up a gothic horror and Jared Diamond unpicks nations in crisis

Hephzibah Anderson

11, May, 2020 @10:59 AM

Article image
In Brief: Rabbits for Food; Nazi Wives; Wakenhyrst – review
A writer’s spell in a psychiatric hospital and the women at the top in Hitler’s Germany

Hannah Beckerman

10, Nov, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
In brief: The World Aflame; The Last Protector; Beneath the Streets – review
Images of the world wars are given colour; Andrew Taylor’s latest 17th-century mystery; and what if Jeremy Thorpe got away with murder?

Alexander Larman

17, May, 2020 @12:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Crusaders; Our Times in Rhymes; Daisy Jones & the Six – review
Another page-turning history from Dan Jones, satirical versifying for the Brexit age; and an atmospheric 1970s rock novel

Alexander Larman

29, Dec, 2019 @1:00 PM