For fans of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, THE PALACE OF ILLUSIONS is quite a departure from her previous novels. In her most current work, Divakaruni attempts to take the tale of the Mahabharat, the longest epic poem in history, and rewrites it so that the focus is now on the woman that played a large part in this epic tale. Panchaali, the woman who is fated to marry five men of royal birth, tells the story of her life and how she and her marriage changes the course of history.
The story starts with Panchaali’s childhood, which is not one that was typical in her day. She manages to get an education alongside her brother, although it is forbidden for girls to go to school, and she learns the ways of War and other important topics needed to rule a kingdom.
When a wise man comes to her and tells her that she will eventually marry five brothers and be the cause of a Great War, Panchaali of course does not believe it. But as one by one the prophecies come true, Panchaali knows that her life has been fated to end in tragedy.
THE PALACE OF ILLUSIONS is the epic tale of a woman who finds herself to be the catalyst of a war that will change the lives of many in ancient India. One may want to compare this tale to the likes of Homer’s famous epics, with Indian gods and royalty living as one. It’s also a tale of love and passion, with a strong emphasis on tragedy. I found that this was not an easy read, but when I finally reached the end of the story, I had a sense of satisfaction at having read such an admirable piece of writing.