Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Today we’ll review the Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak.

The classic saying of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case “by its name” fits very well for this book in quite a literal sense.

Forty Rules of love book cover

I heard lot of recommendations for this book, but I always thought “Forty rules of love” must be another love story with forty rules of dos and donts. The cover shows a girl approaching a boy with what looks like a novel in her hand. The boy seems to be standing there waiting for her in the backdrop of a city. So first impression just by looking at the cover is, it’s a love story of a girl and a boy which takes place or is concluded in a city. A classic old school love story involving a set of rules! “What a morbid take on a love story!” I kept assuming. I couldn’t have been father from the truth.

In my defence, I usually don’t prefer reading plain love stories which follow the storyline of a Karan Johar movie or an Ekta kapoor’s classic tragedy serial. Neither do I prefer investing my time in self-help kind of books which don’t invigorate the reader’s senses nor leave any room for imagination. Hence you can understand my initial aversion to this book. But, don’t get me wrong! some self-help books are really well written and they successfully give you a new perspective but I find them to be a very rare.

Anyways! After a lot of resistance and thought when I finally started reading “The forty rules of love”, to my surprise it wasn’t anywhere close to what I thought it to be. All my assumptions about this book shattered to thousands of pieces. It was while reading this book, I decided to write a review about it. I felt obliged to spread the word about it. This book is like a song that deserves to be sung over and over again through centuries. Ha! Ironically this novel talks about the man whose poems we’ve been worshiping and singing since centuries, our beloved Rumi.

Set in two different timelines, this novel takes us on two journeys independent of each other but yet connected by a thread. I’ll drop a hint for you here, remember the book I mentioned earlier which the girl is holding in the cover picture? Yes, that book is the thread, a veil in time connecting both the storylines set in different centuries. In both the storylines we see the personal growth and transformation of the protagonists not only though our eyes but also from the view of all the characters around our protagonists, and that’s the most beautiful part of Elif Shafak’s wiriting. We’ll talk more about the writing, later in this review. But first, lets jump right to the narrative.

The first storyline which is set in 21st century, takes us on a liberation journey of a middle aged woman who has everything we all are taught to aim for in life and yet something is amiss from her picture perfect life.

The second storyline which is set in 13th century is the journey to Rumi. We are taken through his transformation from being Maulana Jalal-Ud-Din, a scholar to becoming Rumi, the poet we know and marvel today. But Rumi doesn’t take the center stage here, at the heart of this story is the one who is in Rumi’s heart, the Shams of Tabrizi. Rumi and Shams, two lives which began far away but were always leading to one another until their paths finally merged into one.

The most impressive part about the book, is its writing. My heart swells with wonder and appreciation for Elif Shafak for writing such a marvel. Unlike most of the novels where we read the story from the presective of the author or any one character, this novel brilliantly narrates the story from the view of all the characters involved.

Her writing makes a lasting impression on the reader leaving us with an after thought and a profound realization about how in real life we look at everything from our perspective, while there are so many more more versions of the same life or same incident when looked at from the perspective of each and everyone involved. It makes the reader mindful of the fact that whatever happens in our lives happens because every incident, every person has a back story and there will always be a part of the story that we have not yet seen, so we should never judge each other too quickly.

Oh! by the way, lets not forget those Forty Rules, eh?. The rules in this book are not the dos and don’ts but they are beautiful life lessons filled with ancient wisdom.

Here’s a beautiful quote that I really like from the book and find relatable during these crazy times in 2020.

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” ~Elif Shafak

All in all, I definitely recommend this book, its magical and is a treat for the heart and soul.

Though I dont like the rating system and in no way am I qualified to rate such a talented writer and an amazing book, but a lot of people shortlist books via ratings, so if I have to rate this beautiful book this is how I will do it:

Writing: 5/5

Story: 4/5

Book title: 3/5

Book cover: 4/5

Finally, here’s a small treat for you. Enjoy listening to Elif Shafal narrating her favourite part of the book.

Hope you enjoyed reading this review and found it helpful. 🙂

Happy reading fellas! Until next time. 👋🏼


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