Written in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s evocative script, The Palace of Illusions courses through the events in Draupadi’s life, giving us a panoramic glance at the life of the Panchaal Queen. This retelling, while alluding to developments in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, lends an air of empowerment to the female characters of the Hindu myths. Through its narration of the legends of Gods & kings, we read about humans’ inabilities to learn from their own follies.
I am so glad that this is my first read of the year! The author’s storytelling abilities are by far one of the best I’ve ever come across. Right from the first page, Draupadi’s narration of events keeps you thoroughly engrossed.
Also, this book holds a special place in my heart because of how nostalgic I felt. It reminded me of the TV series I’d watch as a child about Hindu mythological figures.
It’s been written in first-person narrative and the writing is very direct, which I liked. The voice that the author has created for Draupadi is full of vigor and a fierce acceptance of self.
Even if you have no contextual knowledge of what happens in either of the Hindu myths, you’ll be able to read the book without feeling confused or lost. The author, when making references, frames the passages in such a way that you understand what has happened.
Covering a character’s entire life in the span of 300 odd pages can be a tricky thing if the story is not well-paced, but Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni manages it superbly. There wasn’t a time when I felt myself losing interest or getting too overwhelmed.
No matter the choices that these characters make in the book, by the end of it, I was reduced to tears because of their plight and the misfortunes they’ve had to deal with. That’s the power of the author’s writing.
I had put off reading this title for ages! I hope you won’t make the same mistake. It’s high up on my ‘best books to read’ recommendations list. So do yourself a favour, and get started with it!