Palace of Illusions Review

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Palace of Illusions by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni is a beautiful book which gives a woman’s perspective on a story that deals mainly with male characters i.e. the great epic, Mahabharata.
The book has been written from Draupadi’s, who was the wife of the 5 Pandava heroes in this epic, point of view. It throws light on her innermost thoughts and feelings, traced right from her childhood to her demise in the lap of the Himalayan mountains. It talks about her feelings about the strange in which way she was born – right out of a yagya (worship done around a holy fire, done to invoke “Agni” and other gods), her attitude towards her father who was much too blinded by his ambitions and revenges to even give her second glance, the mother she never had and her most beloved brother. It goes on to describe her rather strange marital relationship with all 5 of the Pandava brothers and despite having 5 husbands, her love for Karna, the most unfortunate and tragic hero in the epic.

This book, quite relevant to today’s war torn world as well, narrates this novel in a beautiful mythical-magical fashion. Though it does talk about most of the events which took place in the original epic as well, the author has put in some beautiful imaginative twists of her own such as the intricacies of Draupadi and Kunti’s relationship, Draupadi’s secret longing for Karna and even addresses the question of whether Karna actually respected and loved her most, even more than any of her 5 husbands.

The Palace of Illusions is mainly a love story at its core. It has been written almost like a romantic novel, set in the times of the Mahabharata and focuses mainly on Draupadi’s strange interest towards Karna, even before her marriage, how she accepted being married to the Pandavas despite loving Karna and how she gradually taught herself to accede to her fate, though in her heart, it was always Karna who was most important. It is almost like a tragic love story – about two lovers who...
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