Palace of Illusions
Rating: 4.5 /5
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Picador Publishers
Published: January 2008
Cost: Rs. 399 (Paperback), Rs. 214 (Kindle edition)
Taking us back to a time that is half history, half myth and wholly magical, bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni gives voice to Panchaali, the fire-born heroine of the Mahabharata, as she weaves a vibrant retelling of an ancient epic saga.
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.
The storyline entails details about Draupadi’s relationship with her brother, the loneliness that she felt in her father’s palace, the relationship with her sister, Sikhandi (who was once a woman but not anymore), her swayamvar which otherwise had ulterior motives; her life as the wife of the five Pandavas. The characterization is such that she hasn’t portrayed Draupadi in a ‘pitiful’ manner. Draupadi is represented as a powerful woman with all shades.
Having her home, freedom and honour taken away, being stripped in public, the life of hiding, the grim justice of war and a lonely death falling off a mountain track; this book shows her perspective over things that was overshadowed completely in the epic literature.
The author however adds her imaginative twists: Which man does Draupadi really love? How does she get to describe the battle? Did she have any say in her marriage?
Author Chitra becomes first person narrator, the piece therefore becomes more personal. The Palace of Illusions is ‘not a substitute’ for the real Mahabharata. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has taken one of the fundamental pieces of Indian literature and focused on the story of Panchaali. Narrating the events from Panchaali’s perspective, author explores Panchaali’s role in the story which has been formerly and majorly about the epic conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
About the Author:
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of the novels Queen of Dreams, The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Before We Visit the Goddess, One Amazing Thing, Oleander Girl, and The Vine of Desire, and of the prizewinning story collections Arranged Marriage and The Unknown Errors of Our Lives. She lives in Houston, Texas, and teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.