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The Palace of Illusions
The Palace of Illusions
$14.95
Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Feb.01.2008
  • 9781400096206
  • Anchor

Chitra gives an overview of the book:

Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to the time of the Indian epic The Mahabharat—a time that is half-history, half-myth, and wholly magical. Through her narrator Panchaali, the wife of the legendary five Pandavas brothers, Divakaruni gives us a rare feminist interpretation of an epic story. The novel traces Panchaali’s life, beginning with her magical birth in fire as the daughter of a king before 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 the brothers’ sides through years of exile and a terrible civil war. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her stratagems to take over control of her household from her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or...
Read full overview »

Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to the time of the Indian epic The Mahabharat—a time that is half-history, half-myth, and wholly magical. Through her narrator Panchaali, the wife of the legendary five Pandavas brothers, Divakaruni gives us a rare feminist interpretation of an epic story.

The novel traces Panchaali’s life, beginning with her magical birth in fire as the daughter of a king before 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 the brothers’ sides through years of exile and a terrible civil war. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her stratagems to take over control of her household from her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husband’s most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female voice in a world of warriors, gods, and ever-manipulating hands of fate.

Praise for The Palace of Illusions:

“An intimate, feminine portrait that is both contemporary and timeless; an ambitious project effectively executed.” (Kirkus)

“a lyrical tale imbued with the scent of ancient incense yet . . . rooted in modern day relevancy.” (Book Page)

“A rich tale of passion and love, power and weakness, honor and humiliation. Whether or not readers are familiar with the Mahabharat epic, they will enjoy this entertaining, insightful and suspenseful story.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is as sprawling and bright a gem as the Hope Diamond – a mythic tale brimming with warriors, magic and trachery (and its brother, deceit)…. Who better to attempt the feat of transforming a centuries-old cultural icon into a personal, modern story than Divakaruni, a professor of English at the University of Houston and author of numerous award-winning works, including the luscious novel The Mistress of Spices and the bestselling Sister of my Heart. Divakaruni’s sentences dazzle; the images she creates are masterful….” (Los Angeles Times)

“Panchaali’s narrative provides a radient entrée into an ancient mythology virtually unknown to the Western world. Divakaruni’s impulse to flesh out the women of the Mahabharat results in a charming and remarkable book.” (The Houston Chronicle

“Your truly epic narrative myth calls for bitter experience descending, avalanche-like, down dynasties, incorporating dramatic turning points of ineradicable impact; curses; looming fates; tricky and meddlesome gods; feuds; sages, sorcerers and wars. These elements and many more are found in abundance in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new novel, The Palace of Illusions, which ambitiously encapsulates the Indian epic “Mahabharat” within a 360-page novel.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“The Palace of Illusions…is as grand and tragic as the epic poems by Homer. The story is complex, as political relationships grow and develop, and friends and enemies are created, leading to battles and wars that will eventually destroy them all…I was captivated by the tragic storyline and the fate into which Panchaali was born. This admirable attempt to recreate the epic Mahabharat from the viewpoint of a strong woman is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s best work yet.” (Bookreporter.com)

“vivid and inventive. . . . rich, action-filled. . . complex.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

“For more than 20 years now, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has been telling stories of Indian women from her home in California. Her women are desperate, wonderful, complicated, lyrical, memorable, even magical…. Chitra’s women experience love, loss and longing through tangled marriages, bitter divorces, childbirth, abortion, abuse, violence, racism, poverty and riches. Now, in a daring novel out this month, Banerjee Divakaruni returns to a fantastic world, inhabited by kings, queens, villains and sorcerers.” (Vogue India)

Read an excerpt »

The Palace of Illusions
A Novel
Written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Fiction - Literary | Doubleday | Hardcover | February 2008 | $23.95 | 978-0-385-51599-3 (0-385-51599-5)

Excerpt

1

fire

Through the long, lonely years of my childhood, when my father’s palace seemed to tighten its grip around me until I couldn’t breathe, I would go to my nurse and ask for a story. And though she knew many wondrous and edifying tales, the one I made her tell me over and over was the story of my birth. I think I liked it so much because it made me feel special, and in those days there was little else in my life that did. Perhaps Dhai Ma realized this. Perhaps that was why she agreed to my demands even though we both knew I should be using my time more gainfully, in ways more befitting the daughter of King Drupad, ruler of Panchaal, one of the richest kingdoms in the continent of Bharat.

The story inspired me to make up fancy names for myself: Offspring of Vengeance, or the Unexpected One. But Dhai Ma puffed out her cheeks at my tendency to drama, calling me the Girl Who Wasn’t Invited. Who knows, perhaps she was more accurate than I.

This winter afternoon, sitting cross–legged in the meager sunlight that managed to find its way through my slit of a window, she said, “When your brother stepped out of the sacrificial fire onto the cold stone slabs of the palace hall, all the assembly cried out in amazement.”

She was shelling peas. I watched her flashing fingers with envy, wishing she would let me help. But Dhai Ma had very specific ideas about activities that were appropriate for princesses.

“An eyeblink later,” she continued, “when you emerged from the fire, our jaws dropped. It was so quiet, you could have heard a housefly fart.”

I reminded her that flies do not perform that particular bodily function.

She smiled her squint-eyed, cunning smile. “Child, the things you don’t know would fill the milky ocean where Lord Vishnu sleeps—and spill over its edges.”

I considered being offended, but I wanted to hear the story. So I held my tongue, and after a moment she picked up the tale again.

“We’d been praying for thirty days, from sun-up to sundown. All of us: your father, the hundred priests he’d invited to Kampilya to perform the fire ceremony, headed by that shifty-eyed pair, Yaja and Upayaja, the queens, the ministers, and of course the servants. We’d been fasting, too—not that we were given a choice—just one meal, each evening, of flattened rice soaked in milk. King Drupad wouldn’t eat even that. He only drank water carried up from the holy Ganga, so that the gods would feel obligated to answer his prayers.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was thin as the point of a sword, and hard like it, too. You could count every bone on him. His eyes, sunk deep into their sockets, glittered like black pearls. He could barely hold up his head, but of course he wouldn’t remove that monstrosity of a crown that no one has ever seen him without—not even his wives, I’ve heard, not even in bed.”

Dhai Ma had a good eye for detail. Father was, even now, much the same, though age—and the belief that he was finally close to getting what he’d wanted for so long—had softened his impatience.

“Some people,” she continued, “thought he was going to die, but I had no such fears. Anyone who wanted revenge as badly as your royal father did wouldn’t let go of body and breath so easily.” She chewed ruminatively on a handful of peas.

“Finally,” I prompted her, “it was the thirtieth day.”

“And I for one was heartily thankful. Milk

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Chitra

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Her works...

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Published Reviews

Mar.27.2009

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni made an indelible impression on the literary world with her first novel, The Mistress of Spices, a magical tale of love and herbs. Sister of My Heart is less reliant on...

Mar.27.2009

*Starred Review* The double bind that torques women’s lives is Divakaruni’s key theme in lambent novels and short stories about women who immigrate to America from India, and the curious ways the deep past...