Book Review: the forty rules of love

Besides it being the October book of the month in my book club, this book has been recommended to me by so many people from all over the globe. Talk about connecting cultures and people 😀

Special shoutout to my foodie friend and superb baker Farrah for lending me the book and heavily convincing me to read it, you rock queen!


Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on Sweet Blasphemy, a novel written by a man named Aziz Zahara. Ella is mesmerized by his tale of Shams’s search for Rumi and the dervish’s role in transforming the successful but unhappy cleric into a committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. She is also taken with Shams’s lessons, or rules, that offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each and every one of us. As she reads on, she realizes that Rumi’s story mir­rors her own and that Zahara—like Shams—has come to set her free.

My opinion

This book was recommended to me by people from various religious beliefs and origins. They urged me to read it as they liked it a lot. I gotta admit, it lives up to its hype 😀

I already liked another book of Elif Shafak, 10min and 38 seconds and I was curious about this masterpiece translated worldwide and adapted in theaters as well. And this book displays her extensive knowledge of politics, religion, culture and their complex duality.

First things first, can we talk about the sexy as fuck book cover? Man, if the summary does not make you want to read the book, that drawing on the cover will for sure.

To be honest, I heard of the French title of the book and it never spoke to me, while the English title did. Weird right? I tried to read this book not focusing on what are the forty rules but mostly focusing on enjoying the trip as each book is a special journey with specific learnings.

The storyline and storytelling are a work of art! It clearly displays the depth and level of research that Elif shafak did before writing this book. The story is set between the 13th century and the 21st, and not once did the timeline got me confused! Elif knows her history, what she wants to give as information and when. I think that knowing the religion of Islam and its principles helped me appreciate the book even more and made me a tad bit curious about Rumi and Shams.

I personally didn’t like Ella that much and think that her story was not needed in this book. It gave me superficial vibes in contrast to the deep knowledge and questions that arise throughout the reading of this book. The story of Ella was full of fucking stereotypes typical to any soap show: Cheating husband, teenage crisis, life crisis, restarting life abroad, escaping the reality… I mean, Elif could have made an effort here 😀

I also noticed that this book is all about this balance of extremes: It is in the friendship of Rumi and shams, in the situations where reason and love were opposed, the wisdom and youth… It is still a work of fiction based on various truthful elements and I think that this is what many people forgot when they reviewed its link to Islam.

I love how the characters are gradually introduced and support the story. They are different, complex and written in a very mature way. It was fascinating to see how she detailed the interactions between the wine lovers and the pious people (Souleiman, Barbaros…). Same for the brothel and the men consuming these services at night while preaching a « good life » during the day.

During my conversation with my fellow book club friends, we did not come in agreement regarding the relationship between Shamz and Kimya. Personally I didn’t see any problem there as I understood the human side of Shams that Elif wanted to push. As moral and illuminated as he was, he remained a simple man with flaws. He married her but came to regret it as he encouraged a young infatuation. Quite common in the 13th century, no?

To be honest, I found Rumi to be very limited in his mindset. I found myself wondering if this is Elif Shafak’s idea of him or if he was really like that until he met Shams that helped him broaden his view on life. I think Shams was a really good addition to Rumi’s life and helped him free himself from constraints linked to society, ideas and expectations.

I still don’t get the negative comments on Goodreads regarding this book, this is a fiction book inspired by the real life of Rumi and the real friendship of Shams. It has nothing to do with religion and is mostly a spiritual book aiming to feed the mind and the soul and to expand horizons and spark curiosity around many elements such as Sufism …

The forty rules of love is a beautiful book. Beautiful in the story it portrays, beautiful in the spirituality it covers and beautiful in the feeling you get while reading it. A must-read for anybody who wants to discover this author work and get the essence of Islam 🙂

I would recommend it to someone interested in Sufism and curious about the principles of Islam.

Honestly, I bought all books from Elif Shafak 😀