Monday, May 16, 2016

The Forty Rules of Love

Elif Şafak’s The Forty Rules of Love was on a list of recommended reading for books about Turkey. I certainly would not recommend the novel to understand Turkey better, since the story really has nothing to do with Turkish culture or geography. However, I would recommend it to understand Sufism, Islamic mysticism, better.

The novel varies in perspective between Ella, a housewife reviewing a manuscript for a literary agent, and the novel she’s reading. The manuscript is about the poet and theologian Rumi and his relationship with Shams of Tabriz, a dervish. The novel within the novel also alters between perspectives—Rumi, Shams, Rumi’s family, even a prostitute.

I must admit that I was most interested in Ella’s story and her relationships with her family and Aziz, the author of the Rumi novel. I’m not sure why I cared about the story since Ella wasn’t exactly an attractive character and her growth in the novel did not feel like an accurate reflection of the Rumi/Shams subplot.

 I was also invested, although less so, in the relationship between Rumi and Shams and feel I should do further research to verify the fictional account. Overall, the story was appealing, though the writing often felt stilted and formal. As such, I only recommend the novel for those interested in mysticism.

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