Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Palace of Illusions - Review

Now, before you go ahead with this review, let me warn you this is the first time I am putting up a book review and had it not been for the Write Tribe’s prompt, I would mostly not have attempted reviewing a book in near future.

But now that we are here, let’s begin. The book I am reviewing today is ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Let me tell you that I am not at all a mythology person. In fact, mythology to me is literally kaala akshar bhains barabar :P  And hence this is the first book that I read on mythology after some serious recommendation by a friend. I was pretty sure that I would give up after reading first few pages. But this book kept me hooked. And hooked like anything.

The Book:
The Palace of Illusions is the epic tale of The Mahabharat narrated from Panchaali’s eyes. The book is written in first person and throughout the book, Panchaali narrates incidence after incidence beginning right from her abnormal birth, her lonely childhood, her mysterious friendship and relationship with Krishna, her feminist thoughts, her married life with Five Pandavas, relationship with her mother-in-law Kunti, her distinct role in keeping Pandavas together, her insecurities as a woman, her secret and strange attraction to Karna, motherhood and her journey all through the while fulfilling every word of the phrase of ‘the woman who shall change the course of history’ spoken at the time of her birth.

Some amazing lines and their significance in today’s times:
There are so many instances and beautifully woven lines that you would find relevant even today. Putting together just a few of them here.

Relationship with her Mother-in-law:
“I wasn’t going to give my mother-in-law the satisfaction of thinking that she’d reduced me to tears, though in fact I was on the verge of weeping with frustration."

"Had we remained in Hastinapur, in her husband’s palace, I am sure she would have fought me fiercely for control. But the Palace of Illusions was my domain, and she accepted this, spending her days in the cool, fragrant garden listening to the bulbuls sing. Or was she a better actress than I gave her credit for, bidding her time, waiting for the mistakes she knew I’d make?”

Now, who says the ‘coveted’ saas-bahu fights were made famous by Ekta Kapoor. Reading the above lines made me grin thinking that this bitter-sweet relationship existed from the days of the yore.   

Her Feminist Ideas:
“Nor was I particularly delighted with the virginity boon, which seemed designed more for my husbands’ benefit than mine. That seemed to be the nature of boon given to women – they were handed to us like presents we hadn’t quite wanted.

If the sage had cared to inquire, I’d have requested the gift of forgetting, so that when I went to each brother I’d be free of the memory of the previous one.”

These and many such lines bring out her frustration of being born into a man’s world. This yet again proves that we, women have been fighting this battle of feminism since ages. Sigh !!

The Practical and Sharp Women in Her:
The photograph on the right speaks volumes about the way Panchaali thought about herself and her importance in the life of Pandavas. Ofcourse, she was a woman and just like today’s women she took the fact about her husbands’ marrying other women with a pinch of salt, however, at the same time knowing her true value in their lives.

The Verdict:
Now, who hasn’t heard about Mahabharata? We all have. But unfolding incident after incident from Panchaali’s point of view was such a refresher. So many small incidents woven together in bringing this epic tale alive seen from Panchaali’s eyes. The Palace of Illusions depicts Panchaali as a powerful, courageous and a practical woman who knew her way in the world of men. The book is written in impeccable English with carefully chosen words.

Summing up, I enjoyed reading this book thoroughly for its fast paced narrative, amazing writing style and beautiful words. This one has actually inspired me to dive more into mythological books.

I don't know if the above can be called a proper review or not. But I hope I have done enough justice while putting up the above. And as I said, this review is a first timer. Suggestions are welcome. Ciao J


This post is written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – Day 4 where we had to put up a Book Review.

54 comments:

  1. I heard about this book from a friend, he totally loves this book.
    I guess now after reading ur reviews I should give it a try !

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    1. You should definitely take this one up :)

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  2. I have heard about this book before and have it on my bookshelf to be read at the moment. Some of the author's books have been good, others have left me flat (like Mistress of Spices). Will get to this soon. And great attempt at a first book review. I review books a lot on my blog but do it a bit differently. Having said that, for the prompt, I went for a completely different take.

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    1. Go for this one for sure :) And yes, I read your review.. And I now have that book on my wishlist.

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  3. i have the ebook of this book , yet to be read... nice review..
    Actually i have already read a similar book 'Yagyanseni' meaning Draupadi(her other name), in Odia written by Pratibha Ray. it is almost similar to this book, it narrates mahabharata from the eyes of Draupadi, her life, her dilemmas, secret emotions and the role of Krishna.... the book has been translated into english, and available.. I loved that book..the only novel i read in my mother tongue...

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    1. Thank you Pratikshya. Read this one too although I don't really know different it would be from the version you have read !!

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  4. Yes. This goes straight in to my must-read list. Love mythological books, and in combo with a strong lady character .... ah great! You present it very well, and I love your take on the book review:-)

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    1. Thank you Eli that you liked my review. Glad this prompted you to pick the book up. Hope you enjoy it :)

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  5. Jyotsna, very well written! Must tell you awesome job for first time book review. I know the feeling because I just finished my first time book review too. Had it not been for the Write Tribe’s prompt, I wouldn’t have done it either.
    You convinced me to read it. On my list now! Seems strong female characters tackling Indian girls/bahu’s problem with wit, humor and care free attitude.

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    1. Glad you liked my first attempt with book review Hemlata. A very strong portrayal of a woman, I am sure you will love this one ;)

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  6. What a coincidence! My review today is Draupadi too, but a different book, obviously :D And I have heard of the Palace of Illusions. Now you've made me want to read it. It came highly recommended by a friend too!

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    1. Yes, I read your review too.. I would like to read the book suggested by you as well :)

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  7. This is indeed a wonderful book and I am glad that I picked up this book based on the recomendation from a dear friend.

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  8. Many people recommended this to me, so I got a pdf of it online. What prevented me from reading it was only the PDF format. Somehow I thought that'd deprive me of the happiness of reading a hard copy. I'll read it soon. Your review makes me want to :)

    Try the Queen of Dreams by the same author :)

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    1. I know the feeling Sreeja, even I find PDF copies difficult to read.. What an amazing feeling it is to hold a book in our hands, isn't it?? Thank you for the suggestion Sreeja, I am surely going to pick it up :)

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  9. This is one of my favorite books. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.
    Nice review. Now that you have written the first one, here's to many more!

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    1. This one went in my list of favourites too... !! Thanks Arthy.. Hope to write more of these :)

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  10. Your review has aroused interest in this book. Panchaali , a strong feminist of her times and well ahead of her times is an enigma but at the same time a modern women can identify with her thoughts and frustrations.Thank you for a lovely review.

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    1. She was indeed a very strong character, something I didn't know before I took up this book. Hope you enjoy it as well

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  11. Such an awesome review!. After reading Panchali's life I am very curious to read the book.

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    1. Thank you Usha Ma'am. Do read this one !!

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  12. Well I have stumbled upon this book quite a few times and yes I do intend to pick it up. Of course your review is prodding me in that direction :D

    Richa

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  13. This is an all time favourite.. the best ever done by Chitra Bannerji. You don't seem like an amateur reviewer at all. Loved that review.

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    1. Now, you are being kind with your words Tulika. Thank you so much :)

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  14. It sounds like a fascinating mythical read. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes it is. The pleasure is all mine Michelle :)

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  15. Hi Jyotsna,your first on review but you have not burned your fingers!Quoting phrases and highlighting the theme from different angles,makes it interesting read,ie.your review and automatically mind is drawn to the book.

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    1. Thank you Vijay. Glad I 'did not burn my fingers' Do pick the book up. Hope you would like the book too!!

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  16. Jyotsna, that was one hell of a review! I love mythology and that is one of the reasons why i love the Marathi book "Mrityunjay" which tells the story from Karna's perspective. These stories make you realise that there is no such thing as the "only truth". Different truths exist to different people, but ultimately the one who wins the war, gets to be the hero. This book is on my must-read list :-)

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    1. Yes, so rightly said. There is no such thing as the 'only truth'. A book from Karna's perspective?? This should be interesting. Should check if the the same is available in English. Thank you for your kind words on the review :)

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  17. Such a comprehensive review! I loved the book! It was my very first Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book and I'm in love with her work :)

    Draupadi has always fascinated me and this book was simply unputdownable ! :)

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    1. What a coincidence, Pixie ! This is my first Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni book too.. You are absolutely right, you just cannot put this book down !!

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  18. Very nicely written.. and the fact that you brought out some of the lines from the book helped build a vivid picture of the book :) I have read quite a few if Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's work and used to find them all revolving around Bengali women and their lives abroad... this is a refreshing change.. must look it up.

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    1. Just tried to make the review more interesting Seeta by adding the quotes. I have not read any of her works before but after this I am going to dig for more of her books. Do read and let me know too if you like it :)

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  19. I fell in luv with this book and ever since reccomend it to one n all

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    1. Same pinch, Mina :P I am in love with this book too and shall be recommending this one with all my gusto :)

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  20. Jyotsna, Kudos for your maiden effort! Great review :)

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    1. Thank a lot Anita.. First timer I was. I cant even tell you how nervous I was before putting this up.. All the beautiful comments are so motivating :)

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  21. Chitra Banerjee is a powerful story teller and speaks with sensitivity. I am a huge fan of hers but haven't read this one. Great review and thought-provoking lines.

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    1. Yes, she is a very powerful story teller, though this is my first book of hers I can say that from this experience. Go pick it up Vishal, you shall not regret it for sure :)

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  22. Great review....too good as a debut work. The book really sounds interesting and I think I should definitely give it a try.. :-)

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    1. Thanks a lot Maniparna.. You are being very kind with words. Yes, it is a very interesting book. You should try it :)

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  23. Didn't know that this was a mythological book. You have increased my interest especially by adding excerpts from the book. Well reviewed

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    1. It is a great book Rajlakshmi. Do pick it up. I am sure you would love it. And thank you for your 'well reviewed'. For a first timer, I needed the motivation :)

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  24. Loved your free flowing style buddy ... I have heard a lot about this book. Will try to pick up a copy.

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    1. Coming from a 'pro' book reviewer like you, I am honoured Sir :P :) Thank you :)

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  25. Hello.... I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review and I agree with you...
    Even I blog about books which I have read and if you r interested you can read my take on this book at this site :
    writetothepoint.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello.... I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review and I agree with you...
    Even I blog about books which I have read and if you r interested you can read my take on this book at this site :
    writetothepoint.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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