I must admit that after reading Elif Shafak’s “The forty rules of love”, I became skeptical about her writing. You might wonder, how is that even possible given that her book received so much praise along a cheerful audience of its own? I am not sure that I am able to put it into words because I did enjoy the way the author depicted the beautifully poetic and highly spiritual special relationship between Shams and Rumì, a story that got me clearly engaged since I increasingly wanted to understand more about Sufism. However, I felt that there was so much more to explore in the universe of their friendship and I couldn’t help but crave more dynamism and a sense of adventure to rhythm the poetic outlook of the story.
Three daughters of eve on the contrary, made me reconsider everything I thought I had grasped about Elif Shafak’s writing. I found that the highly spiritual focus has been emphasized in a brillant way that showed a genuine mastery of the diverse religious experiences of people from different faiths and practices. This aspect of the book is set to be dominant at the heart of the narrative which recounts the story of a woman named Peri who lives in Istanbul, trying to juggle the demands of her work with motherhood and suddenly shaken by an incident that reminded her of everything from a past she desperately tried to forget.
From this point, we as readers follow the details and intricacies of her own story through a number of flashbacks that go back to her childhood and her mysterious time attending the University of Oxford. The time spent over-there and perhaps the whole book are marked by a particularly intriguing course on God, lectured by a renowned professor who continuously sparked the interest of many students. I found the idea of the course itself extremely interesting and I was agreeably surprised to discover that some of the content was intentionally described and narrated to the reader, which left me as challenged and interested as Peri has once been amidst what seemed to be a transformative educational and spiritual experience. This very choice of narrative enabled the author to explore important themes such as secularism, faith, human nature and cultural relativism.
Moreover, the constant flashbacks and returns to Peri’s present life made me feel as though Elif Shafak made a deliberate choice of structure which illustrated the conflicting atmospheres of traditional and modern Turkey, two contrasting periods that could not have been better depicted by the cosmopolitan and historically rich setting that is the city of Istanbul. Peri’s childhood is described with an inspiring confidence and wholeheartedness, two characteristics well needed to show how torn apart she has felt when faced with her religiously devout and strict mother and her secular father.
Literary critics and newspapers think that this novel has never been so timely. I couldn’t agree more! Elif Shafak wrote about difficult and very sensitive subjects through an inspiring narrative of both reminiscence and immediacy.