The Forty Rules Of Love
The Forty Rules Of Love
Author: Elif Shafak
Year of publication: 2010
Not all love stories have to be all romantic and mushy and written with the quill dipped into some red rose syrup. ‘The forty rules of love’ is one such story. It’s actually an entanglement of two love stories with many different forms of love.
Published in 2010, the book transcends the literary boundaries of genres. It’s a fiction novel with historical fiction and philosophical leanings. It’s basically up to the reader how they want it to be categorized in the list of books they read.
Plot and Observations:
The book carries out two stories set in two different continents and centuries apart. In the present timeline, 2008, it is the story of Ella Rubinstein, a 40 years old housewife whose life only revolves around her dentist husband, David who has been cheating her, her daughter Jeannette, her twins Orly and Avi.
Ella takes a job as a literary agent where she has to review the manuscripts submitted for publication. This is where she reads the manuscript “Sweet Blasphemy” by A.Z. Zehra and this acts as a fulcrum to the storyline set in the thirteenth century around a dervish, Shams of Tabriz and renowned poet Rumi.
The unofficial literary exchanges between Ella and Aziz sets a path for Ella, the path that no longer seemed to matter here, at least to her marriage- the path of Love.
There are many parallels along with the book, the manuscript itself being an enclave. The love shared between a woman, with a no real life beyond the walls of her home, Ella and a man who seems to be unperturbed by the walls of countries, cultures and communities, Aziz reflects the bond shared by a celebrated scholar loved by masses, Rumi and a wandering dervish being, despised by men adhering to organized schools religions, Shams of Tabrez.
The forty rules of love are the underlying mystics of Islam. These are believed to be the universal and invariable laws of nature and they are very naturally scattered throughout the book, mostly as a conversation between Shams and Rumi.
The book is divided into five parts- earth, water, wind, fire and the void which constitute the universe. The way of narration remarkably integrates the story together. Narration from minor characters like Dessert Rose- the harlot, Suleiman- the drunk and Hasan- the beggar brings about major progress of the plot and present a point of view very different from other characters and more texture to the story as a whole.
The book is rich in symbolism. The disagreement to others choice and religious believes, the social turmoil, of course, the number 40. Also Ella’s twelve-year-old golden retriever, Spirit who is old, overweight, completely deaf and almost blind seems to reflect her marriage burdened by her husband’s affair and her forceful and dutiful love towards him.
The story of Ella and Aziz seems to be overshadowed by that of Rumi and Shams. Love appears in the book in many forms forces the characters to act in a way they otherwise wouldn’t do. Love, not romance, is the theme I’d associate it with.
Different themes like love, spirituality, history and philosophy are so well balanced that the book doesn’t seem preachy at all. The distinction between spirituality and religion is very clear and leaves a lot of blank space for the readers to fill in and connect with it in their own way.
If I had to give only one sole reason for you read the book, I’d say read it to be a different person.