TITLE : The Forty Rules Of Love

AUTHOR : Elif Shafak

GENRE : Historical Fiction

FBRC RATING : 5 stars


In this lyrical, exuberant follow-up to her 2007 novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, acclaimed Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz—that together incarnate the poet’s timeless message of love.

Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on Sweet Blasphemy, a novel written by a man named Aziz Zahara. Ella is mesmerized by his tale of Shams’s search for Rumi and the dervish’s role in transforming the successful but unhappy cleric into a committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. She is also taken with Shams’s lessons, or rules, that offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each and every one of us. As she reads on, she realizes that Rumi’s story mir­rors her own and that Zahara—like Shams—has come to set her free. 


I have wanted to read this book for the longest time. I feel like I say that about a lot of books(and it’s true, by the way..). This was on my radar when I saw the quotes from this book on a friend’s status update. I was intrigued and ever since then I was on the lookout for it. The wait was very much worth it. I felt so happy and serene after reading this book and it was the best feeling to be left with after reading a book in my opinion. The book had a magical feel to it throughout. The stories were so beautiful and fills you with a lot of warmth.

 Now that I have gushed about the book, I can let you know my thoughts without me going off on a tangent gushing about it every now and then. The book is about Ella and Aziz and how their lives get intertwined because of Aziz’s book. Through this book, they find themselves close to one another and we see Ella transformed into a new person at the end of this journey. The story is also about the famous poet Rumi and his spiritual companion Shams. I loved how the two stories kept going back and forth making smooth transitions and often bringing out these synchronicity and serendipitous moments that bring a smile to our face. 

Ella was what I would call as passive to the point of blending with the background. She let her husband’s affair to be unquestioned, her idea of life became all about her family with the family taking her for granted and not having much respect in her household. I found her sad and just sorry for her because of how she let everything just roll off her back, almost like it didn’t affect her. She was affected but she refused to face it and acknowledge the issues out of fear of becoming a failure. 

Aziz is the dervish, nomad, traveler. He hasn’t put down any roots. He is the Sufi who lives his life to a Sufi philosophy. I found him and his positivity to be quite intriguing. His principles and the way he and Ella had these beautiful, magical moments just were splendid. I loved how he introduced Ella to a life of new possibilities and how she woke up from her long, deep slumber of passivity. The fact that he is responsible for her shift in personality and the reason for the transformation makes it easier to see the parallels in their life and the historical timeline as well. 

The parallel storyline of Rumi and Shams is really the most interesting part of the story. I was fascinated by Shams and his personality. I would have absolutely loved to meet him in real life. Everything about him was entertaining and equally thoughtful. The forty rules of love were so well crafted to bring more clarity and love into the life of people. The bond they shared was one of a kind and how they seemed to be in tune with one another and the absolute trust Rumi had in Shams just goes off to show us the special nature of their friendship. Their quest in getting closer to God and their love for God is what connected them and how they related to one another. It was incredible to see their story and difficult to not be awed by it.

I didn’t agree with certain things said in the book, regarding love. I didn’t care for the way Rumi treated his family after Shams’s arrival and how Shams was towards Kimya. The aspect that bothered me was how in their quest to finding love for God, they forgot the other aspects of worship, duties. Being a practicing Muslim myself these were things I couldn’t ignore or encourage. These were things I did not agree with the book. I did, however, feel like a lot of the points that were raised in the book, regarding faith, the judgments of fellow believers, the condescending attitude of certain Scholars or people of knowledge were valid. I loved everything besides these aspects and I feel like it was intentional to give some flaws to these characters so as to demonstrate the fact that they were human and capable of wrongdoings, despite their conviction and love for God. That is how I saw it. 

I think the book was quite an engaging and interesting read asking people to ponder and look deeper into themselves. The concepts urge us for introspection and are beneficial in a lot of ways in seeing things from a different perspective whether we agree with it or not.

This book has taken a place in my favorite books of all time. It also will be one that I would love to reread. The book has me curious about Rumi and Shams and their life stories. I highly recommend checking it out if you love historical fiction and fiction that will make you think and assess oneself. This will also be interesting to people who are spiritual and are on a spiritual journey. The book is simply fascinating and it ties in concepts of religion, culture and spirituality so well. I gave the book 5 stars. I highly recommend reading it.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on this book? Which book of Elif Shafak should I try next?

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