Thursday, March 11

Mahabharata Unplugged

Book Name : The Palace Of Illusions
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre:Historical fiction
Publisher :Picador
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.


vimmuuu said...

yet another book review !! what do I do with you people ??? Aaarrgghhh !

Ok, does this book have pictures in it atleast ?

Shweta said...

Most of the Karna thing she describes, is something I have heard in the retellings , at home by my great grandmother . So I guess there are versions of Mahabharata which support that :)

She makes this a joy to read, doesn't she?

Loved your review..

avdi said...

This one is high on my tbr list. So far I have read only one Chitra Devkaruni novel, that is, the mistress of spices, which I liked.

Anonymous said...

I somehow always associated Devakaruni with sob stories after reading "Sister of my Heart", which I found way too sad.

I really should rethink that I guess. This would make a good book for me to read for the South Asian Reading Challenge.

The love story between Karna and Draupadi is pretty intriguing, I never heard that one before, but then I only know of Mahabharata though my 7th std Hindi non-detail :D

Bedazzled said...

vimmuu.. poor ,child!! start reading books ;-O.. picturesa?.. what r u ,drunk ?

swetha.. seriously,i had no clue that Karna and draupadi were an item;).. yeah, i had fun reading it. thanx!

Avdi.. i am looking fwd to reading mistress of spices now.heard only good things abt it. Didnt like the movie though.

Nishita.. this is not a sad story at all .. really nice and breezy .. u mite like it.I thought chitra was an american citizen now.Will it still be south asian literature?

bouncingbubble said...

I loved the bk too. Only, it went a bit like just narrating Mahabharata i/o from Panchaali's views midway.
I particularly liked the way the relationship between Kunti & Panchaali was narrated.

Vaishnavi said...

Hey great review! I have not read any of Divakaruni's works but will definitely read this one. I love a good retelling of both the epics and absolutely LOVED Ashok Banker's Ramayana series. You have a nice blog and thanks for linking me up! :) That was a pleasant surprise :) There is just a small typo with my name though :)

Bedazzled said...

BB.. i thot kunti-panchaali relationship was stereotypical(as far as mil-dil relationships go),but not something i had read of specifically before..

Vaishnavi.. sorry abt the typo.. corrected it now..i havent read Ashok bankers books.. and thanx for liking the blog..i kinda liked the name of u r blog.. the mosquito one and saved it so that i could come back and read later ..oh,welcome here !!;-)

Smita said...

My love for the book is renowned :)

I had fallen in love with Krishna's character :)

Liekd your review!!! Chitra's latest book lies on my deskptop need to take a print out & read it soon!!!

Bedazzled said...

smita.. yeah,i know ! wow,u have her new book ?.. where do u get new e-books re? i manage to get only classics or obscure books only. and i dont feel like paying up 10$ for e-books when i can get a book for 5-6$.

Kals said...

I'm glad you liked the book but it didn't work for me. I thought it trivialized the grand epic and didn't really add on anything spectacular to it.

Probably I went in expecting more...but I was disappointed. I also disliked how it shifted point of views and moved from Draupadi's narrative to other characters' narrative. Anyway, interesting review!

Smita said...

How I got her new book???

Lemme read & review it and then I'll share the secret!!! It was one of the bets moments of my life :)

Bedazzled said...

kals.. i did have high expectations going into reading the book ,but gradually found that nobody could do justice to the Mahabharata.. it is so long and complicated ,that the feeling of "lacks details" was bound to pop up !!

Smits.. wow!! read the book and tell us abt it sooon.. lemme guess,Chitra asked you to review her book .. yeah,that could qualify as one of the best moments of anyone's life ..waiting for the review !!!