The Palace of Illusions – Review

Book: The Palace of Illusions
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Year: 2008

About the Author:

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 20 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew and Japanese. Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies.

Chitra currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston.

About the Book:

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The Mahabharata is an epic tale and is certainly not a new story to many of us. Most of us are familiar with it either by reading, by stories told by our parents or by TV serials, it’s no doubt one of the most renowned tale in India.

Mahabharata tells the story of the five Pandava and the Great War they’re destined to fight, ‘The Gita’ lessons and yes, Lord Krishna. This epic tale has given us many larger-than-life heroes, inspiring virtues, life lessons, stories-into-stories and even business lessons. Our culture has drawn a lot from the pages of this epic.

But for ages there was no voice that tells the tale about women of this era and that’s what Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni came up with.

“This is Panchaali’s Mahabharata”

The novel traces the princess Panchaali’s life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.

Book Speaks:

I was totally swept over by Chitra’s prose, mesmerized by the conviction with which she writes the story of one of the most complex characters of Mahabharata. Draupadi’s version of Mahabharata, capturing the essence of the epic in the form of a story but most importantly it gives a new perspective to the old story.

As the story begins Draupadi emerges as any mortal being, flawed by vices in the most realistic ways – egocentric, unpredictable, displaying regular acts of anger, confusion, insatiable yearnings, her hidden desire for Karana. All this being the cause of one of the most disastrous battles in the history but as book progressed, she showed her other side of being wise, passionate, head-strong and heroic.

It shows how difficult and horrendously life treated her. Her oppressed childhood, forced polygamy and everything she has had to endure tore my heart to pieces. This poignantly told story changed my views about the epic and specially Panchaali’s character.

Author no doubt did a wonderful job of trimming, condensing, and restructuring the story through Panchaali’s eyes.

Overall rating: 4

Clearly, BookSpeaks enjoyed this book as it touched our hearts.

You know there are books that somehow soak deeper into your being. The kind you enjoy, but you can’t point to the one thing about them that makes them so spectacular. The Palace of Illusions was one of those books.

Which book has unexpectedly ended up staying with you long after you’ve read it’s final words? Share with us – it’s Your Turn now.

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