Love in Colour

Nigerian British author, Bolu Babalola’s book is a symphony orchestrated in shades of love and romance. It’s an anthology of thirteen short stories, ten retellings of myths from around the world, and three original stories. These retellings range from Ghana to Greece to Egypt to Lesotho. She has reimagined certain Yoruba and Chinese mythical stories and made it her own. The original mythical stories were essentially told from the male perspective and had tinges of patriarchy and misogyny. However, the genius that Bolu is, has flipped that very narrative, that very story and given the agency and power to the female characters. These stories are now intersectional, rooted in feminism and coloured ever so beautifully with the myriad hues of love and romance; which in reality, if you observe, love is a spectrum and there can never be one rigid definition of it.

Out of all these stories, a few stood out for me. The story of Scheherazade may seem like a movie but the emotions running through it are so pure, almost scared. One can’t help but get misty eyed at the end of it. The banter between the lovers is so real, so convivial. The tale of Attem is all about a woman’s agency and control over her desires and sexuality, and the mighty prowess that she exudes when she celebrates herself. Nefertiti’s story is about feminism that’s active, affirmative and audacious. It’s also about sexuality that’s languid, undefined yet completely your own. The story of Naleli is empowering in so many ways as she comes to terms with her medical condition, her self acceptance of the same and basking in its glory whilst navigating teenage angst and politics. The breakup scene in Tiara’s story is breathtakingly heartbreaking and intimate. In fact the distance that creeps up between them during the conversation is deafening but deftly portrayed. The way Bolu has crafted the nitty-gritty of a modern day relationship involving long distance, jealousy and insecurity is ingenious to say the least. Lastly, Orin’s tale is fun, flirty and humorous. The scene in the bar, I wish I were Orin!

One doesn’t need to know or be familiar with the myths. The author at no point makes the reader feel abandoned for not knowing them. She in fact takes us on this lyrical, poetic journey of love through her writing. This book is lush, the writing is stellar. Bolu has achieved the indomitable feat of marrying ancestry with modernism. In fact, this is one of those very few books where the language is dripping with love, the emotions tug at your heart and the characters make you laugh and cry with them. It’s not a cliché, if I will tell you that this book will want you to fall in love and if you are already in love with a wonderful partner/s, then you would want to hug them tightly as you relish the book.

Take a bow, Bolu Babalola!


The forty rules of Love

This magnum opus by Elif Shafak, is all Love. The author puts Love as the protagonist here and weaves in two parallel narratives; one involving Rumi and Shams of Tabriz taking place in the 1240s, and the other, a contemporary one, taking place in 2008 and featuring an American woman, Ella.

Rumi, a privileged and celebrated scholar in Konya, lives a protected life, revered by everyone but often oblivious to the sufferings and miseries of the poor and the disadvantaged, and nurturing a void in his soul. Shams, a wandering dervish and an enigmatic heretic, lives a life practising sufism and has dedicated his whole being to the unfathomable power and purity of Love and kindness. Upon meeting Shams, Rumi undergoes this spiritual transformation that makes him unlearn all his beliefs; which causes tension and animosity with his followers and even his family. However, their relationship is ill fated. The loss and heartache transforms Rumi into this mystical poet, that the world has now come to know him for.

Ella’s story has her as this uninspired housewife in a loveless marriage who has discarded every notion about the existence of love. Her chance encounter with Aziz, emboldens her to question her life’s choices. It unravels as she continues to seek her agency and authority.

This book is an ode to love. The forty rules are life affirming and triumphant. Love, compassion, honesty and empathy are the lingering subtext in every rule. The book also presents the Sufi interpretation of Islam; which is all encompassing and ethereal. For the troubled times that currently the world is in and for all the islamophobes; this book is a necessity.

Shukran, Elif!