jump to navigation

The Forty Rules of Love, A novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak January 18, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
Tags: , , , , , ,

UnknownA friend recommended I read The Forty Rules of Love, A novel of Rumi.  It is an uplifting novel that links the East and West and is told in the form of a story-within-a-story.  I’m always interested in learning more about Rumi, one of the most popular poets in the world, and his master Shams of Tabriz, so I read the book and now want to share this rich story with others.


The main modern day character is Ella a present-day, Boston housewife who feels trapped in an unhappy marriage.  She stayed at home to raise their three children, but now that her daughter is in college and the twins are in high school she has started working part time at a literary agency.  She is assigned to read Sweet Blasphemy, a manuscript about Shams of Tabriz, a wandering Dervish, and Rumi.


At first Ella doesn’t think she can relate to the novel, but as she continues to read, she becomes curious about the author, Aziz  Zahara.  She Googles him and discovers he has a blog. On the blog she reads one of Rumi’s poems.


Choose Love, Love! Without the sweet life of

Love, living is a burden—as you have seen.  page 43.


While reading the poem she feels like everything on it is written for her eyes only.  Ella decides to email the author.  Aziz replies and they begin to correspond. Ella shares her problems and Azis his philosophies.


Meanwhile, in the manuscript Ella is reading, Shams wants to find a companion to share the wisdom, the forty rules of love, he has spent his life learning on his travels.  His guardian angel tells him to go to Baghdad to find a master to point him in the right direction.  Shams goes to a dervish lodge in Baghdad and eventually hears about a man who is also looking for a spiritual companion.  Shams knows this is the man he’s looking for but the master tells Shams he must wait until spring.  During the long, harsh winter, Shams keeps from being discouraged by keeping one of the forty rules of love in mind.


“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair.  Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you.  Be thankful!  It is easy to be thankful when all is well.  A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.” page 72.


Shams eventually meets Rumi and the two men go into seclusion for forty days as Shams shares the forty rules of love.  Rumi becomes so absorbed in taking the next step spiritually that he neglects his students, wife, sons and duties.  He and Shams build a strong spiritual bond.  His bond with Shams leads to jealousy and suspicion and eventually tragedy, but out of this comes Rumi’s eternal poetry that talks about the deep love between the student and master.


After reading the book, I wanted to learn more about the author just as Ella was curious about Aziz.  I discovered Elif Shafak is the most popular female author in Turkey.  I was delighted to find a good author who has a spiritual message.  The book is about all kinds of love including the love between a man and a woman, the love between a mother and her children and the spiritual love between a master and his student.


Here is a link to what Elif Safak has to say about the book.





1. Ross - January 19, 2013

Thanks for the review!

2. heidi skarie - January 20, 2013

I’m glad you liked the review. Elif Shafak writes in a way that people today can relate to a man that lived 800 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: