We had a great discussion, not just because we all read the book but also because we had two members who could explain to us all the questions we had. Wonderful.
There are really two novels in this book. Ella, an American woman receives a script to be edited. It is about Rumi, a Muslim poet who lived in the 13th century. His poems are world famous.
We thought the story of Rumi was really fantastic, he teaches fate and love. The book made some of us both peaceful and tearful. We liked that it went through different stages, going from the present to the past, that it had many characters. We also liked that the author uses different narrators so you can see the events from different perspectives (always a favourite of mine). We have a chance to develop empathy.
We asked ourselves whether there was a political message. Can fiction be political? What does she want to tell us with this story?
There is something special to the original language of the book. Elif Şafak wrote it in English first, then translated it into Turkish and retranslated and rewrote it in English. It is a bestseller in Turkey, people like her, she is nice. Elif Şafak is a world person, international, she respects all cultures and religions, is interested in Sufism. The novel is fiction, even though Rumi and Shamz are real people. She uses all those vices to talk about the differences in the Islamic world, therefore it is such a good book for this day and age.
As already mentioned, we especially loved the inner part, the book in the book, not so much Ella's story. She seemed to us like a caricature of a housewife from the 40s. The “outer book” doesn't seem real, seemed like “Chick lit” to us, added to attract more readers.
Another little criticism about Elif Şafak. She is a wonderfully articulate intelligent woman but her usuing Americanism in the 13th century was a little disturbing.
Some of my favourite quotes of the novel: “'The sharia is like a candle', said Shams of Tabriz. 'It provides us with much valuable light. But let us not forget that a candle helps us to go from one place to another in the dark. If we forget where we are headed and instead concentrate on the candle, what good is it?'” and “Each time I say good-bye to a place I like, I feel like I am leaving a part of me behind.”
And a last remark by one of our members: “I think that if everyone just adopted one the rules ... the world would be a better place!”
You may also want to read “Araf aka The Saint of Incipient Insanities" (Araf)
We discussed this in our book club in February 2012.