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The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi Hardcover – February 18, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (February 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021451
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Celebrated Turkish novelist Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul) serves up a curious blend of mediocre hen lit and epic historical to underwhelming results. In present-day Boston, dull suburban mother and cheated-on wife Ella Rubinstein takes a job as a reader for a literary agent and becomes entranced by Aziz Zahara, the author of a manuscript about the relationship between 13th-century poet Rumi and Sufi mystic Shams that, for better or for worse, becomes a story-within-a-story. Aziz and Ella strike up an e-mail relationship, largely made up of Ella's midlife crisis and Aziz's philosophical replies. Meanwhile, Aziz's novel, Sweet Blasphemy, is occasionally interesting but mostly dull, weighed down by Rufi's and Shams's theological musings. Its better moments concern tangential characters; Rumi's son, Aladdin, who is resentful of his father's closeness to the mystic, and Rumi's adopted daughter, Kimya, whose doomed marriage to Shams is touching in a way Ella's failed relationship with her husband never manages. The rumblings against Shams reach a peak, and Ella and Aziz finally meet, tying the story lines together into a readable, if not enthralling, tale. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* As in her previous book, The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), Shafak, a courageous, best-selling Turkish writer, boldly links East and West in converging narratives. In present-day Massachusetts, Ella, an unhappy housewife on the cusp of 40, begins reading manuscripts for a literary agency, and soon finds herself exchanging personal e-mails with Aziz Zahara, a wandering Sufi photographer and the author of Ella’s first assignment, an enthralling novel titled Sweet Blasphemy. It fictionalizes the true story of the esteemed thirteenth-century Muslim teacher Rumi, who undergoes a profound transformation when the wandering dervish Shams of Tabriz, a renegade of strange and unnerving powers, comes to town. The two become inseparable, and as Shams shares the liberating “forty rules of love,” Rumi becomes a rebel mystic, the inventor of the “ecstatic dance” of the whirling dervishes, and a fervent and cherished poet. Under Aziz’s influence, Ella also breaks free of convention and opens herself to cosmic forces. Infused with Sufi mysticism and Rumi’s incomparable lyrics, and sweetly human in its embrace of our flaws and failings, Shafak’s seductive, shrewd, and affecting novel brilliantly revives the revelations of Shams and Rumi, and daringly illuminates the differences between religion and spirituality, censure and compassion, fear and love of life in our own violent world. --Donna Seaman

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As others have written, the chapters represent the different characters in the book telling the story from their perspective.
In the essence, all religions and spiritual teachings are based on love.
bohemian traveler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Andrea C. Mueller on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Shafak's third novel is an emotional, thoughtful journey. First we meet Ella, a suburban housewife whose "normal" is changed forever by her encounter with a book and a book's author. Then, as we read the book with Ella, we meet the wandering dervish Shams and the scholar Rumi.
The story of Rumi and Shams is told from multiple viewpoints; the chapter title tells you who is speaking. Rumi, Shams, Desert Rose the Harlot, Kerra the wife of Rumi, Suleiman the Drunk, Kimya the girl who falls in love with Shams... and others. The multiple viewpoints give depth and layering to an already complex structure, but Shafak maintains clarity throughout.
Spirituality, more specifically the question "What is true spiritual love?" is the theme throughout the book. Some of the answers are predictable: compassion, oneness. But some are surprising, and for that reason alone the book is worth reading.
It's more than a spiritual quest, though; "The Forty Rules of Love" is just a great story. Get caught up in the characters and it will make you feel, question, wonder, and walk away thoughtfully, with a little more love and compassion of your own.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By opinionorama on March 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, I enjoyed the story of Rumi and Shams quite a bit and I liked the style of the author in this part. On the other hand, the story of Ella and Aziz is so unbelievable and annoying that I almost stopped reading the book.

Ella is simply not believable in how she relates to Aziz. She is incredibly boring, has by her own admission led an empty life thus far, and yet we are supposed to believe that she can suddenly awaken to life and spirit so wholly that she would be a match for Aziz? I certainly believe that awakening is possible and happens often, but it is a journey that takes time. I have a hard time believing that someone like Aziz, who has put much of his life's effort into his spiritual path and is an insightful character, would be interested in such an in-depth e-mail dialog, let alone more of a relationship, with someone like Ella.

In all honesty, I think that Ella pushes my buttons. I am bothered by how she is supposedly opening her eyes to what is important in life, yet she does not give any thought to her daughter's newly diagnosed eating disorder. I think her process offends my belief that as you grow, you clean up your own back yard rather than become so holier than thou that you think you can just transcend that back yard.

Overall, I like the author's style. I hope that her other books represent more interesting and believable women as much so as she is able to represent the male characters.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Maverick on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book at Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle after attending a book reading where the author herself was present and discussed the book based on various questions from audience members. I was familiar with Rumi, but after reading this book, I am in love with Shams. The author writes this book in a unique style - going from the present to the past (centuries away) and from one first person to many - thereby introducing many characters that we get familiar with and quite intimately.

This book is not just about a housewife encountering love, but truly understanding what love is - in all its forms and the most divine kind - spiritual love, which only a few of us can aspire to, and this is why I absolutely loved each page of this book. If only we can make this mandatory reading for all men, perhaps we would have more compassionate society.

Elif - thank you for this wonderful work - it is truly a gift to mankind.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By bohemian traveler on March 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to learn about mysticism and Rumi, this is a perfect book for you. In the essence, all religions and spiritual teachings are based on love. Only people changed them to use religion for their interests. This book successfully emphasizes LOVE..Unconditional love..Loving GOD, loving your friend,loving your lover, loving flowers, loving cats etc..There is no limit to LOVE..without not offend people and never get offended in any case..These are few of Rumi's teachings that can make a person happy and peaceful.One of the readers talked about how he disliked the book because of the love story that is told throughout the book. But this is Rumi..Nothing is less important and no one kind of love is superior to another kind of love. But i will not criticize him as criticizing and judging is totally contrary to the Rumi's teachings.I respect him and i am sure he has some kind point that matters to himself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By pepper on July 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The reasons I gave four star to "40 Rules of Love' instead of three are that I recognize the difficulty of writing a historical and philosophical novel taking place in the 13th century, that it successfully introduces a mystical branch of Islam ("Sufism") to the readers uninformed about sufism or Islam in general (myself included), and that I found the book as an enjoyable, pleasant read overall.
Furthermore, some of the aspects I took as shortcomings of the writing initially became a unifying voice for the book at the end. Each chapter is told from the view point of different characters. Some are main characters in the story, some aren't. Some of them come back to tell us another chapter or two while others make an appearance only once. It is a powerful and an efficient way of creating the atmosphere of the place and time period from different angles of the society. However, most of these characters, although different jobs and attributes define them, sound exactly the same. The beggar, the harlot, the drunk are indistinguishable in tone and spirit. Same goes for the warrior, the zealot and Alaaddin, or Kimya and Kerra. This similarity is annoying while reading the book; yet there is a rhythm in her prose that manages to hold the entire story together. That rhythm is the same background melody we hear in the voice of those characters and becomes the agent for the sense of life the author attempting to convey.
Yet, there are more apparent shortcomings why I considered giving it only three stars. The modern time story of Ella and Aziz feels flat and unexplored. Same thing can be said about Shams and his omitted reaction to the death of one of the characters. Given what the author is trying to accomplish, I think this book needed to be longer.
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More About the Author

Elif Shafak is Turkey's most-read woman writer and an award-winning novelist. She writes in both English and Turkish, and has published 13 books, nine of which are novels, including: The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, Honour and her nonfiction memoir Black Milk. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages. She has more than one and a half million followers on Twitter: @elif_safak
Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the voices of women, minorities, subcultures, immigrants and global souls. Defying cliches and transcending boundaries her works draws on different cultures and cities, and reflects a strong interest in history, philosophy, culture, mysticism, Sufism and gender equality. Her books have been translated into more than forty languages.
Shafak is also a political scientist and has taught at various universities in the USA, UK and Turkey. She has written for several international daily & weekly publications, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent and The World Post/Huffington Post.
She was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is married with two kids and divides her time between London and Istanbul.

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