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The Palace of Illusionsby Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Synopses & Reviews
A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat — told from the point of view of the wife of an amazing woman.
Relevant to today's war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.
The novel traces the princess Panchaali's life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father's kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands' most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.
"Recasting the Indian epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Princess Panchaali, veteran novelist Divakaruni (Queen of Dream) offers a vivid and inventive companion to the renowned poem. Born from fire and marked with the prophecy that she will change the course of history, the strong-willed Panchaali declares early on that she won't spend her life merely supporting the men around her. Soon enough, she bucks tradition by simultaneously wedding all five famous Pandava brothers, who have been denied their rightful kingdom, and finds herself the happy mistress of the much-envied palace of illusions. Panchaali's joy is short-lived, however, when hubris, fate and the desire for vengeance in reclaiming the Pandavas' kingdom (all also prophesied) cause her and her husbands to make mistakes that have cascading political effects, shattering peace in the region. Devastation ensues, but spiritual remarks from the divine Krishna put life and death in a cosmic context. Despite an intrusive retrospective voice ('I didn't know then how sorely...love would be tested') and a sometimes heavy-handed feminism, Divakaruni's rich, action-filled narrative contrasts well with the complex psychological portrait of a mythic princess." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The author's prose is as spirited as Panchaali herself, written with energy and humor." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Divakaruni's feminist reading of Indian lore offers readers a magical lens into the political interplay of gender, castes, birthright and life in the monarchy." Rocky Mountain News
"Divakaruni's impulse to flesh out the women of the Mahabharat results in a charming and remarkable book." Houston Chronicle
"Whether or not readers are familiar with the Mahabharat epic...they will enjoy this entertaining, insightful, and suspenseful story." Library Journal
About the Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of the bestselling novels Queen of Dreams, Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, and The Vine of Desire, and of the prizewinning story collections Arranged Marriage and The Unknown Errors of Our Lives. She lives in Houston, Texas, and teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.
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