Posted in Historical Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni!

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni can be called a retelling or a reimagining of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. A lot of plot details are redefined with a feminist perspective often by changing a few points in the story. Sometimes it adds to the value, sometimes it doesn’t. However, as a complete book, I quite enjoyed it. It was a much-recommended book after Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half history, half myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don’t find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Dhrupad’s Daughter and Dhri’s sister, “The Unexpected One” or “Offspring of Vengeance” as she thinks of herself. And it’s not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn’t know if she wants to be a part of the prophecy that she and her brother were born to fulfil. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as.

( Book 9/36 for 2017 ) FR – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ! It was a much recommended book after Karna's Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! 👍🏼 The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half-history, half-myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don't find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Draupad's Daughter and Dhri's sister, "The Unexpected One" or "Offspring of Vengeance" as she thinks of herself. And it's not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn't know if she wants to be a part of prophecy she and her brother were born to fulfill. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as. While the book isn't specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don't have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, "Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you'll wait forever." After she morphes into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting. I didn't want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn't fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven't read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!

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While the book isn’t specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don’t have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, “Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you’ll wait forever.” After she morphs into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting.

Her relationship with Krishnaa is also wonderfully etched out. He is not a confidante, not the way I felt. In her own words, in Krishnaa, she had found her match. He often served as his eyes and ears to the world, not like a spy, more like someone who brought her the news from the world. I also like how her perception of the queen mothers of Hastinapur changes over time. At first, of irritation but later it changes to admiration and source of strength. All of this brings a very humane touch to the epic, unlike the divine way it has always been narrated to us!

I didn’t want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn’t fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven’t read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!

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