Book Reviews
Rumi’s Daughter: Muriel Maufroy
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews, Featured Comments Off on Rumi’s Daughter: Muriel Maufroy
Rumi’s Daughter: Muriel Maufroy

In spite of the strapline on the front cover: “In the bestselling tradition of The Alchemist “, whatever that means exactly (“In the tradition of the bestselling novel The Alchemist perhaps? “) I was so tempted by the design and format (small, almost square hardback, delicious colours and patterns), that I bought the book. Generally, I don’t much care for bestsellers in the first place, and found The Alchemist a story too simplistic in language and style for my taste. So I can’t complain of being misled by that line, as Rumi’s Daughter is another novel that could easily be taken for a children’s book, and I daresay I’d have loved it (and The Alchemist) at the age of nine or ten.

But having said all that, there is a special something about this book, although I’m not quite sure what it is. Kimya is a young girl who lives with her family in a rural village in thirteenth century Anatolia. Her “otherness’, a sort of mystic spirituality that she doesn’t really understand herself, reminded me of Nell Grey’s Ellie in The Golden Web, and like Ellie, Kimya finds herself separated from her family and treading a quite different path from the one set out for her. Her “otherness’ is recognised by Maulana, a wise man and teacher from Konya (the Sufi poet Rumi), and she’s adopted into his family where she is happy absorbing his teachings (seemingly by a sort of reverse osmosis), until the wandering mystic Shams enters their lives and changes both Maulana and Kimya for ever.

The author has built her story around the little that is known about Rumi’s life, and reading the notes at the end I felt she’d treated the historical Kimya with a sensitivity that others might have ignored in favour of the sort of dramatic devices and writerly tricks that keep readers turning pages ever faster. Kimya’s spiritual awakening in the final third of the book is paced with sensitivity and tenderness and beautifully described, and comes close to what one imagines the experience of Sufi (or indeed any other) mysticism might be like. Rumi and Shams (and somehow Shams seems by far the more important of the two), are depicted as figures on a higher level of both humanity and spirituality than the other characters, although I have to say that I had my doubts on that score and felt for Kimya and Rumi’s long-suffering and uncomplaining family. Feminists beware,  the women here seem annoyingly understanding and accepting,  yet the ideal reader is almost certainly a romantic (in the broader sense) of the feminine persuasion.

The author’s notes after the epilogue seem quiet and almost loving, and perhaps, in the end, that’s the special something that I mentioned earlier. Like the poetry of Rumi himself, this little book was written simply and with love, and somehow (in spite of the publisher’s calculating hook on the front cover), that can’t help coming through. Although historical reality was almost certainly quite different, Rumi’s Daughter has brought Kimya out from the shadow of the poet into an afterlife all her own.

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