Friday, 13 February 2015

The Palace of Illusions

From the book blurb
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.

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.Her newest novel is Oleander Girl (Simon and Schuster, 2013)

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively.

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

What I think
To begin with, the title is apt. After all, the greed and desire for power is the seed for the Great War. The cover page dazzles and the doors only opens how the Great War happened. The book blurb is engaging. The font used is very good. But, I wish that the material used to make the cover was sturdier.

The Palace of Illusions is the story of Draupadi alias Panchaali - A woman who is famous for all the wrong reasons – having five husbands, her shooting anger and thirst for vengeance. Her famous laughter is still a reference in almost all the Hindu household – You are a girl. Don’t laugh loudly – the elders chide. After all, it is said that Panchaali’s laughter is one of the many reasons for the Great War. Also, elders ask girls not to let their hair loose (I know, today it is a fashion statement) because after Panchaali was abused in the court by Dhuryodhana, in front of everyone, she pledged that she would wash and tie her hair only after dipping the same with the blood of Kauravas – The root cause for the Great war!

In short, Panchaali is still a reference in every household to teach girls how they should NOT behave; contrary to Sita who is often a reference for how a woman must behave.

The Palace of Illusions gives voice to Panchaali and lets her describe her life and give reasons for why she behaved in certain ways in certain situations. The book narrates Panchaali’s life from her birth to death. I always say that I LOVE books that lets us travel through the lifetime of protagonists.

The narrative is simple and lucid. The editor has done a commendable work. It almost feels like watching a movie!

I appreciate the author for taking the onus of presenting Panchaali’s voice. The book is well-researched and beautifully described. The emotions are rightly conveyed and the words of Sri Krishna is brilliantly placed.

This is a confession…
I was so glued to the book that I didn’t find any ifs and buts!

Should you read it?
Go for it…
For it gives an entirely different perspective and voice for the epic called Mahabharatha!



  1. This book does not look all that bad.

  2. I have come across positive reviews of this book elsewhere too. I like the theme - someday, I will read it.

    Destination Infinity

  3. A very interesting review. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Hi Locomente, So nice to have found you are expanding my world view. Well done review of Palace of Illusions. Thank you for sharing. John

  5. I love this book! One of my all time favorites in fact :)