In this lyrical, mystical tale, Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalising 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.

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. Aziz is a globe-trotter who has been to places so remote that don’t even appear on the maps, in cities hidden away from the modern eyes, that sleeps and breathes age-old cultures.

Ella is mesmerised by his tale of Shams’s 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, that offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each one of us. As she reads on, she realises that Rumi’s story mir­rors her own and that Zahara—like Shams—has come to set her free.


A must-read for your next travel retreat, this book will take you to a magical world where you can dive in the pool of love and hide from the real world.


Elif Shafak is a Turkish-British novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker, and women’s rights activist. When publishing in English, her name is anglicized as ‘Elif Shafak’.

Shafak writes in Turkish and English and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including The Bastard of IstanbulThe Forty Rules of Love, and Three Daughters of Eve. Her books have been translated into forty-nine languages, and she has been awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Elif Shafak

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