Laural Merlington’s talent for vocal transformation makes The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by best-selling Turkish novelist Elif Shafak a spellbinding experience. Merlington deftly and clearly moves between American characters living in Northampton, MA, in 2008 and 13th-century townspeople of Konya, Turkey, giving all depth, emotion, and personality.
The Forty Rules of Love jumps back and forth between the two time periods as Ella, a 40-year-old American housewife and mother of three, begins to wade back into the work force by taking a job reading manuscript submissions for a literary agency. Her first assignment, a story of the relationship between the mysterious 13th-century Sufi, Shams of Tabriz, and the Islamic scholar, Jalal al-Din Rumi (now world renown as the Sufi poet Rumi), becomes the catalyst for changes well beyond Ella’s desire to work outside the home. Ella finds herself drawn to the manuscript’s author, Aziz Zahara, a peripatetic Scottish photographer and Sufi, seeking out the author through email. As the online friendship between Ella and Aziz escalates, the manuscript Aziz has written begins to shake Ella loose from the conventional moorings that she has, for decades, assured herself complete her life.
While Merlington easily gives voice to Ella’s snarky teen-aged children and distant husband, her talents shine as she moves to the book’s characters from 13th-century Turkey. The listening experience borders on magical as Jackal Head, a mercenary assassin, Desert Rose, a young woman forced into prostitution, and Suleiman, the village drunk, share their stories. However, it is the depiction of Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish searching the land for his soul’s companion, and Rumi, the scholar blindsided by this itinerant spiritual seeker, that shapes the rich world of The Forty Rules of Love. There is bewilderment in the voice of Jalal al-Din Rumi as he attempts to reconcile his connection to the dervish who has entered the scholar’s well-ordered world. It can be heard in the voice of Shams that he knowingly traverses a deadly path as he expresses his Sufi faith in the ultimate power of love while testing the intransigence and jealousies of Islamist zealots and the scholar’s followers.
The Forty Rules of Love contains not only a book-within-a-book but an introduction to Sufism as well. However, it is the vibrant, talented performance of Laural Merlington that allows the story’s message of love to resonate across centuries. Carole Chouinard
In this follow-up to her acclaimed 2007 novel The Bastard of Istanbul, Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives---one contemporary and the other set in the 13th century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz---that together incarnate the poet's timeless message of love.
Ella Rubenstein is 40 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' 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, which 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.
©2010 Elif Shafek (P)2010 Tantor
The story is straightforward and not tricky - and it's beautifully told. The poetry of Rumi and the relationship with Shams of Tabriz reflect well in the past as well as the present time. There is a gentleness in the story that I liked. The mundane-ness of a woman planning meals for her family -- I do this to escape life's realities. Maybe it's just the timing of this particular choice, but the story resonated on many levels. Can't wait to listen to more by this author.
Oh, the deliciousness of her deliberate pronunciation of each syllable gives the words weight and value. Loved it.
I'm well read and a tough critic -- I absolutely loved this story and it's delivery. Definitely worthwhile. So much so, I need to listen again - and I just finished it last week. Every aspect of the story and delivery were solid. Good work.
I purchased the novel at 6 pm today. Now it's 12 am and I don't want to go to bed...Could only put my iPhone down (listening on audible app) to charge the dead battery... Showered and blow dried my hair w earphones on!! Lol. One of the best fiction books I ever read! Thanks.
If it's the genre of fiction based on history and religion, then I am not turned off. Books like The Alchemist and The Prophet are excellent examples and I would recommend.If it's the genre of romance novels, then yes I am turned off.
Laural Merlington worked hard on her narration, I do not want to criticize her. She clearly did the best she could, despite the difficult words to pronounce and wide range of characters she had to act out.
Ella. The most confused character of them all, even her moments of wisdom at the end of the book were based on pure hedonism and escapism, not inner happiness or deeper insight on life and purpose. She had not learnt anything, and failed to change anything in herself, she simply ran away.
I'm not the target audience, that's all. A note for readers: The book had a few moments of explicit sexual writing, which read as a pornographic novel in those rare moments. But that is how it is written for its target audience, which I am sure would enjoy it this way.However, I did appreciate the few rare moments of spiritual and philosophical clarity in the book. But that was about 1/5th of the book, and they became less frequent as the book went on, especially the last bit where almost all spiritual guidance, stories and allegories were not as deep or as well thought out. I guess the deadline for the book was drawing near.Bless you all, I hope you enjoy the book if you think it is what your are looking for.
I have never heard a better narration of the story. Absolutely wonderful story that captivates from the beginning.
Each of the 40 lessons
A timeless tale about love. Shafak reminds us that love is not about romance and carnal desires but rather the acceptance and embrace of everything and anything all at once. I recommend this story for the spiritual and agnostic alike. The narrator brings life to all the characters and truly gives the story the depth it deserves. Well done, audible!
I chose it because it takes place in part where I used to live, and because of Time as central. it was super predictable but still enjoyable. some good reflections on wisdom. very accessible way to read about Sufism, but pretty romanticized version
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