Janet's Reviews > The Forty Rules of Love

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
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's review
Apr 22, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: turkish, colossal-disappointments
Read in April, 2010

As a fan of Rumi's poetry, I had high hopes for this book. Told in two parallel narratives - one in the 13th c. and the other in the present day - both were equally unsatisfying. The present day narrative didn't ring true on any level and the 13th c. narrative had too many people running on and off stage to establish any rhythm. The only fully realized character, Ella, an upperclass suburban wife and mother annoyingly self absorbed yet remarkably unself-aware makes a complete about face that is not believable. The writing is not particularly good with modern day colloquialisms and cliches peppered throughout the 13th c. chapters. Thankfully, the chapters were short making for bite-sized pieces of tedium.
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02/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2)

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message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike Harkin Emily wrote: "I was disappointed in this one too, for all the same reasons, but also because I had high expectations for this author. Try The Bastard of Istanbul for a much better story and greater cultural ins..."

I have just finished this book for my bookclub and, like you, Janet and Emily, found it unsatisfying on many levels. It ostensibly runs parallel stories across eight centuries and succeeds in convincing the reader about neither. I sooo wanted to like it...appealing as it does to the romantic in me.

The Ella story in which she falls in love with a hairy guy half a world away whom she has never met is improbable. It was just this side of 'You've Got Mail'. I found Shams (appropriate name?) bouncing all over the place like a jumping bean.
And the lack of overt sexual encounters when they were required for normal humans (eg Ella and Aziz (a Scotsman??) in the hotel room in Boston and Shams and Kimya after their improbable marriage)were totally unconvincing. Can you really go into a metaphysical trance while drawing circles over a naked woman?
While I like the wild man in all men to be exposed and celebrated(see The 'Wild Man's Journey' by Richard Rohr for an expose on the concept and the mythologies behind it), I don't think the improbable relationship between Shams and Rumi as the yin and yang of male personality cut it for me.
The novel was too disjointed to resonate at a philosophical, metaphorical or mystical level.

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