• sujata chaudhury

The Forty Rules of Love

The Forty Rules of Love is an international bestseller by Elif Shafak. This novel was first published in 2010 by Viking Penguin. The book discusses the religion of love and its forty rules. This novel explores both love and faith in the form of two kinds of relationships - first is the love between a woman and a man and the second is the love between two friends.

Ella Rubinstein, a mother of three teenage children, has a husband, has a lovely home, and on top of that, she has recently joined a job as the book reviewer at a publishing firm. At a glance, Ella seems to have all the reasons to be happy but she has an emptiness inside her heart. Ella who was once young and full of love and laughter now finds the very idea of romance complete hogwash. At her new job, Ella has to make a report about a book by a new and seemingly one-time author. The book is about the friendship between the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. In the process of reading the book, she feels something change within herself. Ella who always planned things and feared the situations out of her control finds herself leaving her husband and years of marriage behind her to find the mysterious author of the book.

For me to write a review that justifies this book I have to admit that I knew nothing about the story when I picked it up. I steer clear of the books dealing with any kind of religion because I don't want my prejudices affecting my judgment about that book. The moment when I felt that the book talks about religion I became skeptical of it and contemplated leaving the book unfinished but because I was invested in Ella's life I kept on reading. I thank my better judgment that I didn't.

The first thing that amazed me about this book is that there is a book inside this book. As I mentioned above that Ella is assigned to prepare a review of the debut book of author A. Z. Zahara titled Sweet Blasphemy. So the book we readers are reading which is Forty Rules of Love and the book Ella is reading, Sweet Blasphemy progress chapter by chapter. In turn we the readers also read Sweet Blasphemy. Sweet Blasphemy is the story of how a famous scholar of Islam, Rumi got friends with a wandering dervish called Shams of Tabriz and how their friendship encouraged Rumi to adopt Sufism and become a poet, a preacher of love. Though I started the book to read about Ella and her life choices I stayed because of Shams. Shams is a character with whom anyone will fall in love. He calls himself a man of god but he doesn't talk about the ways of Allah but only love. He doesn't shy away from calling out bigoted persons in powerful positions. It was a treat to know about Shams and his opinions about society, its people, religion, and obviously about love. Shams has written a book containing his forty rules of the religion of love which he lives by. The rules are some of the most beautiful lines I have ever read and are fitted smartly inside the story. The friendship between Shams and Rumi is portrayed beautifully, right from the time they met each other to the time their friendship changed both of them for the better and paved their destiny. There are many characters in this book apart from Ella, Shams, and Rumi like A. Z. Zahar, Kerra, Suleiman the Drunk, Desert Rose the Harlot, Hasan the Beggar any many more. Each of these characters play an intrinsic part in the story and help in conveying the message of the book. The writing style of Elif Shafak is what binds the story together. It makes you feel warm from the inside. The writing is simple, elegant, honest, and full of love.

The one thing that sets this book aside from all the other books of this genre is that it doesn't impose anything on its readers. A person who is not a follower of Islam or a complete atheist can take away something valuable from this book. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone.

‘Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.’

~ Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love


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