Early this year, I read the Shiva trilogy series by Amish Tripathi and had thoroughly enjoyed it. This newly kindled interest for historical or mythological fiction attracted me to the magnetic plotline of ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. This book is a mythological fiction with its plot spun around the Mahabharata coupled with a female narrator – Draupadi. To learn about a female point of view in a patriarchal society, to read and learn about the experiences of Draupadi in an epic as Mahabharat – was the catch for me to pick this book.
The life of Draupadi, from being born from fire to her deathbed, forms the plot of this riveting tale. The storyline entails details about her 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 and how she triggered a catastrophic war.
To know more about the secret love that she harbored for a man who wasn’t her husband and the silent but smart tussle between her and her mother in law, you got to pick this book. God!! Even an epic isn’t free of the saas-bahu saga.
The best thing about Chitra Divakaruni’s characterization is that she hasn’t portrayed Draupadi in a pitiable manner. Draupadi is illustrated as a powerful woman with shades of grey and white. All the layers of her character are skilfully brought to the surface. She is depicted as a woman with her brains in the right place. Her contriving mind, her pride, the tinge of jealousy that she harbors, her constant battle with herself, etc are all efficiently narrated.
All the characters are so ingeniously described that they literally come to life in the minds of the readers. Especially, Karan and Krishna are so vividly described that you shall feel more affectionate towards Karan and shall love Krishna all the more post reading this book.
The writing style of Chitra Banerjee is deeply engaging. All the epic scenes of Mahabharat are sequentially knitted together in a beautiful story. They are well-paced and their chronological order makes perfect sense to the reader. The book is layered with beautiful lines and worded with a good vocabulary. The author has an art of an engaging story-telling.
The events in the story take place in a logical manner and not narrated because they are meant to be told. The story is well-paced and all the characters are beautifully brought to life. The emotions are dealt with the right amount of detail.
One must have heard Mahabharat ample number of times but to make one voluntarily pick this book and then do justice to the reader is a feat in itself. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has rendered this book a must read for all book lovers.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and shall definitely re-read it again. Having read this book, I look forward to reading more of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books.