Book Review: ‘The Palace Of Illusions’ by Chitra B Divakaruni

One of the most talked-about books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni “The Palace of Illusions”, is a fan fiction book that retells the epic mythological story of the Great War of all time, Mahabharat, from Draupadi’s point of view. 

There is scarcely any doubt that the theme of the book was one of its kind. Even though enough has been written and created around the heroic saga, the character of Draupadi (or Panchaali, as she liked to be called) has always been victimized. Chitra has simply taken a story that has been told millions of times over the centuries and has made it into a piece of admiration through her craft. Her storytelling creates an ideal platform for Panchaali to reveal her true self, not hiding any aspect of her personality, good or bad, and leaving it to the readers’ comprehension to stomach her perspectives on whatever happens between her birth and the day she dies.
In Chitra’s “The palace of illusions“, Panchaali is anything but a victim and that perhaps is the only point of alteration from the original story. As you dig through the book, you discover how, since her childhood, Panchaali has felt every tiny emotion known to mankind. She felt everything, from being unwanted to being loved, cared for, having desires, and being betrayed.

Chitra, as she had confessed, had chosen a very bold yet intriguing subject for a book. A premise that many would not dare to touch for fear of hurting the feelings of millions. I liked the introduction of a new angle with KarnaI was amused. However, it can be very deceptive for somebody who gets his hand on this book before he reads/hears/watches the original story. 

The fact that this book does not spend quality time around the character building of other significant mortals is why it is precisely Panchaali’s version of her own life; her yearnings, her vengeance that was born out of her anger and desires, seeking attention from the ones she cared for etc.
Throughout history, Draupadi has been portrayed as a headstrong, self-centered, and complaining woman who brought about the greatest war known to human beings. But in a bold attempt, Chitra has brought forward the innocence and naiveness of a young Panchaali. The way she abruptly questions everything, judges quickly and confronts loneliness and unwanted/rejection throughout her life.

If only our author was not so straightforward with her undisguised foreshadowing, reading could have been more fun and less predictable. But then there can hardly be any spoilers for those who have read the original story, as nothing changes except for a few additional mythical details, which make it a decently fabricated piece of writing.

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