Review of The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a little skeptical about starting this book. The concept seemed nice enough – Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective – but I didn’t want to read a deviation without knowing the original story first (I just knew a few parts here and there). But I decided to try it out anyway, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The narration is charming and the story flows smoothly. However, the author has a habit of going into a hinting mode – “When I did this, I didn’t know how deeply it would affect my life” or something similar – which gets a bit annoying and repetitive at times.
Also, I found myself having very little respect for many of the characters, including Draupadi. They seem very normal and naive (almost like teenagers, I might add), apart from the fact that they make crazy sacrifices and vows for silly reasons. I know I should keep such skepticism away from mythological characters, but I found it hard to. Most of the major political decisions and wars were based on personal issues and most of the major problems were brought about by unnecessary displays of honor. I don’t know how much of this would apply to the original Mahabharata, but I suspect most of it would.
As far as this book goes, I maintain that it is very well written. The dynamics between Karna and Draupadi are interesting to read, and the relationships of Draupadi with Krishna and her brother Dhri are beautifully portrayed.
I recommend it to mythology lovers.