The Versatilist

A rhythmic space for Hindi Poetry, Book Reviews and Travel Stories

Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak

Author: Elif Shafak
Publisher: Penguin India
Published: First Published in 2010
Pages: 350


Reading this book is like watching a play. A lot of characters simultaneously participate in or witness the same events but share an entirely different perspective.  Through its characters, the book traverses an intricate maze of comprised of some very complex issues. The author touches upon the meaning of religion and interpretation of religious doctrines especially in Islam, the concept of Sufism, the compendium of unconditional love and unbearable pain, the splendor of true companionship, the lure of infidelity and the ‘Sweet Blasphemy’.

The story runs parallel in two different eras. One, At Northampton, in the first decade of the 21st century, while the other, at the ancient city of Konya, Turkey in the middle of the 13th century. Ella Rubinstein, a woman in her late thirties, finds herself at the crossroads of life as she desperately tries to make herself and her family perfect. As the turn of events lead her to read an unpublished book titled ‘Sweet Blasphemy’, her life transforms in unprecedented ways. A sweet and teasing romance ensues between Ella and the author of the book, named A.Z. Zahara.

Within the book, the powerful character of a dervish named ‘Shams of Tabriz’ is out on a mission to find a true and a worthy companion. During this journey, he explains the ‘Forty Rules of Love’ as life’s lessons to handle various situations. Sham’s quest leads him to Rumi, the famous preacher and ‘poet’. Through the eyes of Rumi & Shams, the author touches upon a host of sensitive issues in Islam, such as interpretation of Al Nisa in Quran, prohibition of wine, and indulgence in dance and music etc. The author handles the issues with maturity to give a fresh perspective to an uninitiated.

Overall, the story is gripping and fast paced. The book gives you an opportunity to contemplate and reflect on your beliefs. You will enjoy reading it, and who knows, may be some Sufism finds its way to you. Happy Reading!

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