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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Publisher: Picador


Price: Rs. 399 INR(paperback)

ISBN: 978–0330458535

Buy here: https://amzn.to/2KGwsWA

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.

About the author:

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. 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 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 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.Her novels One Amazing Thing, Oleander Girl, Sister of My Heart and Palace of Illusions are currently in the process of being made into movies.

My take on this book:

Mahabharat as a story is well known but still there are books written even today with newer perspectives and interpretations. What makes this particular book stand out is the voice and the person who narrates it, Draupadi. While the story has been told from multiple angles before, this book attempts to explore the story from Draupadi’s perspective, who is believed to be one of the strongest woman in Indian mythology.

The book starts from Draupadi’s childhood from the times she was a kid in her father’s palace to marrying the five Pandavas, living in Hastinapur and then building her own palace — the Mayasabha/Indraprastha/Palace of Illusions to getting humiliated in Hastinapur to living in the jungles for twelve years to the final war in Kurukshetra. The book chronicles her dreams, her rebellion, her choices and how she turns into a major reason for the war.

While readers of Indian mythology would have always wondered what were the reasons that made Draupadi take those decisions, which are believed to have changed the course of Mahabharat, the author makes a bold attempt to give a voice for that imagination. While mythological fiction is a risky proposition with fiction and well knows stories contradicting each other, this book also takes a similar route to take reader along with Panchaali’s journey.

Draupadi’s reaction and feelings towards Karna through out the book are something to watch out as there is very less footage for this relation in other books around this topic. Also, would have liked to see more of Draupadi’s relationship with Nakul and Sahadev, as the book centers around the other three Pandavas only.

The book stays true to the intensity and depth required and is completely engaging from start to end. If you are intrigued by Draupadi as a person or by Mahabharat as a whole, this retelling should not be missed.

My rating: