Book Review of “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Blurb:

Taking us back to a time that is half history, half myth and wholly magical, The Palace of Illusions gives new voice to Panchaali, the fire-born heroine of the Mahabharat, as she weaves a vibrant interpretation of an ancient tale. Married to five royal husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom, Panchaali aids their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war. But she cannot deny her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna—or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy—as she is caught up in the ever-manipulating hands of fate.

Genre: Fiction / Cultural / Fantasy / Mythology / Literature
My Review:
The Palace of Illusions, the best selling novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, gives a whole new perspective of Mahabharata from a woman’s point of view. It is a fresh and different view in a patriarchal society. The story travels with Panchali, right from her birth from the fire to the time she dies, so as to finally be with that person who she loved all through her life but never obtained.
Right from the time she was born, Panchali had only her brother as her confidante and was the only person she was genuinely close to. In the patriarchal society, only her brother offered her atleast some part of the extensive knowledge she craved for. But even her brother could not provide her all the information. And she was a very curious and very forward person for her era.
So, very soon, she found another source to obtain information, in her friend Krishna. Draupadi found a special comradeship in Krishna because of his way of answering every question in the form of a riddle and also because he always treated her as an equal, which was very rare in her time.
However, at every step, Panchali tried to fight her fate, and no matter how hard she tried, she always found out that she was just a pawn in a much larger game. Right from the time she had to choose not to marry the one person she absolutely loved to the point of not able to save her sons even when she knew they would be dead soon, she had to sacrifice a lot in her life, both knowingly and unknowingly. Every step she was demanded a sacrifice, she played the next step to her advantage. Many a times, she went on to purposely hurt others for the sacrifices she made.
But as time passes, and as humans grow older, they turn wiser and Draupadi was no different in that. She realized that everything is ultimately only a game in the hands of God and there is very little that humans can do to change or even alter fate. But by the time she came to this conclusion, her life was almost over.
The Palace of Illusions is a very interesting read for anyone who likes Indian Mythology and wants a fresh and different perspective to the conventional story. Panchali is portrayed as a very strong character who, inspite of being ridiculed and mistreated by almost everyone for her boldness, she maintained her individuality and pride and did not bow down in front of even the seniormost authority. Yes, she did take vengence to a very next level and brought a whole clan down to avenge her anger. But she also tolerated and lived through a lot of injustice, which would have broken any other female of her stature. She brought the position of being a Princess and a Queen to a whole new level. She commands respect at every step of the novel. Overall, the book deserves 5 stars, if not more

Star Rating : 5 Stars
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