I am a queen. Daughter of Drupad, sister of Dhrishtadyumna. Mistress of the greatest palace on earth. I can’t be gambled away like a bag of coins, or summoned to court like a dancing girl. – The Palace Of Illusions
The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni published by Picador is a retelling of Mahabharata. I always knew Mahabharata, the great Indian epic but this book made me experience it.
At 360 pages the novel follows the story of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. Indian epics lack women’s perspective which is much needed considering the plight of the women as is portrayed in these epics. So primarily for this reason it satisfied the reader in me. 360 pages doesn’t leave out any part of the epic hence doesn’t give a baised view. It gives a logical layout of what may have transpired during those times. It makes you believe in the longing of two individuals who seemed poles apart but were perhaps yearning for each other all the while. Such is the might of the author’s pen.
Coming to the technical aspects what greets is a flawless narration. The author though retells the story from Draupadi’s perspective she makes sure to use ample of narrative devices, for instance- Draupadi’s dreams or habit of evasdropping or the boon of sight given by Vyasa etc, to give a wholesome and complete view. It is smart writing, I felt. The human emotions that bring out the downfall of humanity have been presented exceptionally by the author.
Coming to the characters. We all blame Draupadi for the greatest war in the history of mankind but never do we glimpse into her heart to know the reality. This book dives deep into the soul of a woman whose voice has been shut up since ages by the patriarchy. Then there’s another misunderstood character of that of Karna. Though the character of Karna is given less footage but it is presented in magnanimous way. I fell in love with this character. My heart went out to him. And at that the novel presents an unrequited love story of Karna and Draupadi. Who would have thought there could have been such an angle and if there was then the author brings out the shades of love and longing quite brilliantly in this book. The author makes sure to not hurt religious sentiments despite the fictionalization.
And then there is that overpowering climax. Never would I have thought that the climax of Mahabharata would leave me with gooseflesh!
Overall, it was one brilliant read. Pick it up if you haven’t already.
This was Mumbaibookstagram’s Book Of The Month for June.
If you have read this book – hyped for all good reasons- do let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Available on: Amazon, Flipkart, in-store