What We Thought: I'm in two minds about this novel. On one hand it is a beautiful story with a timely message that needs to be heard, but on the other hand the writing sometimes lets it down.
All the many historical voices sound the same to me - a lost opportunity to give greater insight into the minds of the different narrators. Without looking at the chapter headings, it was impossible to know which character was narrating at any particular time. With characters as disparate as virgin brides, wild dervishes, violent thugs and old drunks, there should have been at least some verbal tics to distinguish them. The only really distinctive voice is that of the modern day character Ella.
This is a novel that, on the face of it, is right up my street. Ella is a publisher’s reader working her way through a book on Sufism. Throughout the book the Koranic ‘forty rules of love’ are explored along with stories from the lives of the poet Rumi and Shams the mystic. It’s a shame, therefore, that I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.
The Forty Rules of Love is still well worth reading though and it won't put me off Shafak’s first book - which I probably should have read first.
You'll enjoy this if you like: Mysticism, exoticism, poetry, historical settings.
Avoid if you dislike: Multiple characters, bored housewives reading novels for publishers; anything religious.
Ideal accompaniments: Mediaeval Turkish lute music; Sufi meditation music; mint tea.
Genre: Literary, Metaphysical