17 October, 2019

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - [Book Review]

Book Details :

Title: The Palace of Illusions
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre: Mythology, Historical Fiction
Print Length: 388 pages
Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (February 6, 2009)
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
Sold by: Random House LLC
Source: A copy from local Library


A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view of an amazing woman.

Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.

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.

Purchase Link:

My Review:

It's really tough to write a mythology/ historical fiction without changing the focus of the epic. Mahabharata is an epic which most of the Indians know from childhood through different stories. Like everyone else, I too listened to all these stories and I am amazed that the author didn't deviate from the actual story and covered all important events. 

This novel is written from the perspective of Drupadi, the wife of Pandavas. The author covered some less known facts which show the personality of Drupadi to the readers - her childhood, her relationship with his brother Dhri and Krishna, her desire for Karna , her feelings about Kunti , her husbands etc., 

Chitra's story telling skills and her narration are astounding. The way she makes her readers learn about the characters is amazing. The character building is exemplary. 

This book made me remember all those multiple stories about each character in Mahabharat once again. 

A few things that didn't strike a chord to me?

There is too much mention of Karna and desire of Drupadi over him and her concern. I don't think it is real but just fiction as no other Mahabharata mentions the relationship between Karna and Druapadi. So, eventhough narration is so interesting and believable , I couldn't accept these episodes.

The final part or the last few pages are very important for the story where Panchali clarifies all her doubts from Krishna, but this episode felt like a lot of dragging and made it boring for some time.

Other than the above mentioned points, this book is the best re-telling of Mahabharata. I appreciate the author as she might have done a lot of research on this epic before writing this book.

My Rating: 5/5

I recommend this to people who love to know more about Draupadi and her role in the Kurukshetra. 

About the Author:

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the award-winning author of 18 books. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies and translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. She has won numerous awards, including an American
Book Award and the internation Premio Scanno Prize. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies. Her novels One Amazing Thing and Palace of Illusions have been optioned. Her collection of stories, Arranged Marriage has been made into a play.

She was born in India and came to the United States to continue her education, receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels).

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