Thursday, March 11
Book Name : The Palace Of Illusions
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Price:Rs.395;Rs.315 on flipkart
My Rating : 4/5
I have always believed that liking a book is almost like a self fulfilling prophesy.If you decide to like something,you will most likely end up liking it. That’s what happened to me with The palace of illusion.Most people I know raved about the book and instinctively,I started placing the book in the high pedestal of literature. If not anything,Chitra Banerjee has to be applauded for being gutsy enough to use The Mahabharata as a backdrop for her novel.Agreed,she chooses to use the widely known incidents from the great epic and only glosses over some important incidents.I expected some obscure stories to be woven into the narrative and was disappointed when all i got was what i have read before.But,one can't blame her for that.The book is more about what Draupadi feels than details of what happens in Mahabharata. And,Chitra Banerjee has achieved a home run in that department.Draupadi’s voice is clear,poignant and heart-wrenching at the same time.
I couldn’t decide whether Ramanand Saagar’s televised series had spoiled my imagination or enhanced it.As I read the book,I could only picturise Draupadi as Rupa Ganguli.In a way Chitra Banerjee’s take on Draupadi and several other characters tended to coincide with what I had seen on tv.However, I was fascinated by the writing,most of the times ..Like when Chitra describes Sisupal as one with a hooked chin topped by a sneering mouth,I wanted to applaud her imagination. The sparring between Draupadi and Dhai Maa is delightful and infuses the much needed comic relief to the narrative.
What I also loved about the book was the way the narrative was handled after the war.I expected the book to end at Yudhistar’s coronation,and was pleasantly surprised when the book continued with Draupadi’s journey even after the war. The writing is beautiful, no doubt about it,but sometimes the visual imagery was too overpowering and the language too flowery .At these times,Draupadi’s voice sounded trite and overly studded with similies and metaphors.Characterization of the Pandava brothers was predictable and grey(as is to be expected).The book is more of a love story than chronicle of intricate events of the Mahabharatha.Chitra describes the fatal attraction between Karna and Draupadi very well..I don’t know whether this love affair was spawned from Chitra’s imagination or whether it was actually the case in Vyasaa’s rendition. ..Whatever the case maybe,the tension between the two is awesome & palpable from the pages of the book.One almost falls in love with Karna,the way Chitra describes him. This is the biggest strength of the book.The other being a woman’s perspective to the epic,which has not been explored before.
I realize that I loved the book (despite it’s flaws) mainly because I am intrigued by the Mahabharata and it is difficult for you not to like something that gives a more human account of the epic that you have loved since your childhood. Overall,a nice read. It might not be the best retelling of Mahabharata,but I am sure this is the best Draupadi’s take can get. Four stars from me for Chitra’s beautiful words.