Plot Discussion: Reading this book is like taking a journey through the epic that is Mahabharata and seeing it all through the eyes of Draupadi. It is a very good read for someone who has never read the actual tale and even a better one for someone who already has because it gives insight to things that are usually ignored in such stories, the women.
Divakaruni narrates the story in first person, of Panchaali who was born of fire with her twin brother Dhristadryum. Her fiery pride and bravery that was at the brink of being foolish is what makes the character compellingly likable. The story starts at her ‘birth’ and moves on to the tale of Arjun winning the swayamvara and her being married to all five brothers. The title of the novel comes from the name of the actual palace that Draupadi lovingly builds for her five sons and her husbands. Yes, it is a palace made with the help of magic, and undoubtedly is it like no other in the history of time but it is what Draupadi calls her home.
It is in this very palace that the seeds of hatred are sown in the hearts of the Kauravas for their cousins. According to Mahabharata it is Draupadi who caused the downfall. She is looked upon as the unlucky one, so much so that people don’t even name their daughters Darupadi. This book very creatively gives her point of view without a tone that is justifying. The magic, the exile, her relationship with the mystical Krishna and her own brother are a few points of focus which are cleverly dealt with by Divakaruni.
The best part for me was the battle as described by her. We have seen the scenes of the war in TV shows and we have seen how the men reacted to tragedies like Abhimanyu dying or Bhishma falling. Palace of Illusions gives us a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of view. The interesting subplot of who loves Draupadi the best and more importantly who she really loves is also a thread that joins the whole story together and keeps you going till you reach the last page with definite tears in your eyes.
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This review has been contributed by Ridhu Bhatia. Ridhu is a writer, karaoke singer and Potterhead. A punk in the garb of a nerd, Ridhu loves tattoos and technology alike and definitely looks at the world through pink tinted glasses.