Book Review – Forty Rules of Love

Elif Shafak is originally from Turkey who now resides in the UK with her two sons. Though her first language is Turkish, she prefers writing in English. She has expressed her thoughts too on the subject at the end of the book.

So the book Forty Rules of Love has two stories in parallel – one that takes place in the present century and the other that runs in the thirteenth century.

Ella is a 40-year old domestic goddess who doesn’t let her family that consists of a husband, one adult daughter and two teenage twins step out of the house without feeding them homemade breakfast. She attends cooking clubs, keeps herself busy in her kids and looks after the needs of her husband. However, she is one unhappy woman. Always one to abide by the rules and keep herself in the limits of the codes laid down by the society, she now feels stifled. Her husband is cheating on her; however instead of confronting him, she chooses to stay quiet. She fears the ripples of consequences her action would set in motion. She has lost her belief in love and thus ends up alienating her grown up daughter and has no clue what’s going on in the life of her twins.

She joins a literary agency and is given a book to read and prepare a report on. This book is written by an unknown first-time writer – Aziz A. Zahara. Reluctant to read, but still willing to give her best shot – she begins to read the book called ‘Sweet Blasphemy’. It’s a book based on the lives of 13th century sufi scholar Rumi and his mentor, Shams of Tabriz. Now, we all know how Rumi is – a sufi poet, but not many know that it was Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish who was responsible behind Rumi being a household name even after 700 years. Sweet Blasphemy is a book about knowing oneself, loving oneself and loving without questioning.

As Ella reads the book, she is intrigued by the author of Sweet Blasphemy and reads more about him. In a moment of impulse, she writes him a mail. The writer, a practising sufi himself, replies her and thus starts pen-friendship between them. Without meeting him, Ella falls in love with the writer. The two finally meet and profess their love, however, fate has different plans for them.

Will Ella re-write her destiny? Will she step out of her comfort zone and embrace love?

These questions will be answered when you read the book.

Forty Rules of Love is not a mere book, but a guide in love that makes sense and is relevant even after seven centuries. It shares forty rules of love that can help any individual in this world to love unconditionally one and all. The best thing about the book is that it doesn’t preach. With the help of interestingly woven stories, it sends the message across. Each and every character lends his essence to the book and makes the reader self-reflect and self-meditate.

Some of the precious nuggets of wisdom:

“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…”

“You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.”

“East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.”

“Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission a power that comes within.”

“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

After this book, I am tempted to know more about Rumi and his works.

My verdict: As a bookworm, you end up reading a lot of books, however, not all appeal to your taste or sensibilities. But, when you do come across a book that checks all the right boxes, you feel you have found a new friend. Forty Rules of Love is one such book, or should I say, a friend that you would like to keep close and refer to from time to time whenever you are feeling down, disappointed with yourself or life or want to break free.