I chanced upon this treasure called “The Forty Rules of Love” by sheer luck or fate or “kismet”, if I can say so. Sometimes I find a book, mostly a book finds me. The Forty rules of love was a find which I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in. This was my first book written by Elif Shafak. As I read through the parallel worlds of Ella, Aziz and Rumi, Shams – I was left yearning for more. I wonder if Rumi is the answer one seeks or is he the question and as one flips through the pages you realize that he is both and none and everything. Someone who hasn’t read this brilliant piece of work may not exactly comprehend what I wrote but it really is that.
Elif Shafak has brilliantly captured the essence of love, loss, grief, hurt, anger, betrayal, spirituality in relationships spanning from different worlds with two stories running parallely. I do not think anyone else could have done justice to this like how she has. As she beautifully migrates between centuries, the reader creates a vivid picture in their mind and that alone for me is a real treat. The book is divided into five parts: earth, water, wind, fire and the void; the five elements that constitute the universe. Each chapter begins with the letter “B”, beginning in the summer of 2008 in America and moving back and forth between mid-thirteenth century Turkey and twenty-first century America. Ella discovering herself in 2008 and Rumi’s path of learning and growth in the 1242 (approx.) are so beautifully carved out that I didn’t know which story left me intrigued and craving to know more. The finer nuances, human emotions and reactions are captured so well that I read this in one go. The introduction of all other characters are etched to perfection. Most importantly, this book opened up a world where Rumi existed and that in its entirety was all that I needed. The Sufi mysticism compounded with spiritual love, yearnings and desire is a charm Elif beautifully explores. And as I read the last and 40th rule of love – “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.” I had a smile in my heart and on my lips, which is a seldom occurrence, probably because I read something that has to be experienced and not just read.