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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee…
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The Palace of Illusions

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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4592022,646 (3.89)72
  1. 10
    Mahābhārata (William Buck ed.) by Vyasa (marq)
    marq: Another retelling of Mahabharata. Palace of Illusions from the point of view of Draupadi.
  2. 11
    The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (weeksj10)
    weeksj10: Similar female characters and retelling of myth.
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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
There were elements of this book, a retelling of the Mahabharata, that were wonderful, which is why I decided to say I really liked it, even though there were other elements that I found problematic.

Wonderful elements: Any parts with Krishna. Divakaruni really has created a believable incarnate god; I wanted to be in his presence and I was interested in everything he said. He was playful and wise, careless and kind. Inspired.

Vyasa, the sage who is writing the Mahabharata, and who tells Panchaali her future. Great scene where he first creates the hazy smoke she must walk into, and she asks him what it is, and he says, it's a formula for keeping away bugs. Awesome :-)

Panchaali's relationship with her brother. Very sweet.

All the details--food, silk, stone, plants, sounds, scents. Mmmm, blissful.

Elements I found problematic: the [arbitrary:] development of her feelings for Karna. She loves him, loves him, loves him, then hates him passionately ... then doesn't, and in fact, loves him again. This is not inconsistent with human behavior, but for some reason, in this story, I found it hard to believe. I felt--but don't know, as I haven't read the Mahabharata itself, yet--as if the author was trapped by the epic and had to make Panchaali fit with how the tale goes, but it didn't persuade me. I did like, however, the very final vision we get of Panchaali and Karna.

I found that, for me, from the destruction of the Palace of Illusions (and hey, it's built by Maya, the same Maya=illusion in Buddhism, too) through the horrible epic battles, I felt weary. I've never been a big fan of the Bhagavad-gita, so I was interested to see what I'd feel when I read Divakaruni's take on it. The philosophy still leaves me cold, and yet it was oddly moving to read it.

I'm reading through the Mahabharata now (though I don't have it marked down on Good Reads). I'm very glad I read this. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
There were elements of this book, a retelling of the Mahabharata, that were wonderful, which is why I decided to say I really liked it, even though there were other elements that I found problematic.

Wonderful elements: Any parts with Krishna. Divakaruni really has created a believable incarnate god; I wanted to be in his presence and I was interested in everything he said. He was playful and wise, careless and kind. Inspired.

Vyasa, the sage who is writing the Mahabharata, and who tells Panchaali her future. Great scene where he first creates the hazy smoke she must walk into, and she asks him what it is, and he says, it's a formula for keeping away bugs. Awesome :-)

Panchaali's relationship with her brother. Very sweet.

All the details--food, silk, stone, plants, sounds, scents. Mmmm, blissful.

Elements I found problematic: the [arbitrary:] development of her feelings for Karna. She loves him, loves him, loves him, then hates him passionately ... then doesn't, and in fact, loves him again. This is not inconsistent with human behavior, but for some reason, in this story, I found it hard to believe. I felt--but don't know, as I haven't read the Mahabharata itself, yet--as if the author was trapped by the epic and had to make Panchaali fit with how the tale goes, but it didn't persuade me. I did like, however, the very final vision we get of Panchaali and Karna.

I found that, for me, from the destruction of the Palace of Illusions (and hey, it's built by Maya, the same Maya=illusion in Buddhism, too) through the horrible epic battles, I felt weary. I've never been a big fan of the Bhagavad-gita, so I was interested to see what I'd feel when I read Divakaruni's take on it. The philosophy still leaves me cold, and yet it was oddly moving to read it.

I'm reading through the Mahabharata now (though I don't have it marked down on Good Reads). I'm very glad I read this. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |

Before I started reading this book, a friend of mine told me 'Don't.'

Mythological retellings rarely stays true to form, he said. It trivializes characters, you lose all respect for the people you admired. Don't.

I wish I'd listened to him.

I can't elaborate on what made me stop reading. Some parts of me made me admire it. Others bewildered me(Draupadi and Karna's insta-romance).

I read the Mahabharatha eons ago as a kid. It's my favorite Indian epic(Given that there are only two...). Draupadi isn't one of my most favorite characters and I actually liked looking from Draupadi's eyes. But it felt like petty feelings ruled her life. And like we were missing out on the bigger picture.

So, no. ( )
  ashpapoye | Jan 24, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is Mahabharata written from Draupadi's perspective. I had wished for this book when I had read M.T. Vasudevan Nair's 'Randamoozham' which is written from Bheema's perspective. ( )
  sudhakrishnan | Nov 20, 2013 |
I should say from the outset that all of the reasons that I didn't give this book five stars have much more to do with me than with the book itself. This is excellent, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Divakaruni is a top-notch writer. Her descriptions are detailed and evocative without being overwhelming. Her psychological insights are deep, shrewd and compassionately portrayed. The story is complex, but she does a good job of moving it along.

This is a retelling of the Mahabharata from the point of view of one of the supporting cast, Panchaali. And, this is the point where I become a problem. I am aware of the Mahabharata, but I don't know it. This type of story is often a great way of taking a fresh look at something familiar, and I'm not familiar with this story. The amazingly complicated political manouverings lost me early on. As a non-Hindi-speaker, there were too many names that were too similar, and I had a hard time remembering who was on which side of the current dispute. I appreciated the story that I read, but I know that I missed a lot.

I also miss out because I'm not Indian. Choosing to tell this story from the perspective of a woman has meaning. How does this reflect the lives of Indian women? Are they alienated from this national epic, and reclaiming it in this way? Or is Panchaali's bitterness at being always controlled by the men in her life, and her rebellion against her powerlessness something that resonates? Marriage is the central event of most lives, and Panchaali has a complex situation. (For reasons that only make sense in myth, she has five husbands.) What do other Indian women make of this? I simply don't know.

The question that Panchaali asks first and last, is whether Krishna is a god or not. Why is this so important? Is it a theme of the original work? Does it reflect some kind of intra-Hindu debate? As a non-Hindu, I'm only aware of Krishna as a Hindu god. Is there some question about this?

Obviously, this book left me with more questions than answers, in a very good way. I highly recommend it. ( )
  teckelvik | Aug 21, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385515995, Hardcover)

A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:11 -0400)

In a retelling of the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, Panchaali, wife of the five legendary Pandavas brothers, chronicles the problems of dealing with five husbands who have been cheated out of their birthright.

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