Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions

Review by Saj Bewtra

The Indian epic Mahabharata has been told for many centuries, but never quite like this. The Palace of Illusions is narrated by Panchaali (Draupadi in the Mahabharata), a woman who married five brothers. In the Mahabharata, Draupadi is won in a competition by one of the brothers. They are wed, but her husband’s mother says he must share her with his brothers and she is married to them all. It is far more common to read about men who take many wives, so it’s very interesting to hear the story of a woman married to five men. This is the story of Draupadi’s life and a woman’s view on what it’s like to live with five husbands and her in-laws in ancient times.

The Palace of Illusions also includes tales of Krishna, who has a strange friendship with Draupadi. During an incident when Draupadi is being shamed by being stripped of her sari, Krishna magically makes her constantly covered in more fabric. As they try to unwrap her sari, there is no end to the fabric. I found this historical novel so interesting, especially getting to follow Draupadi from her birth and seeing how she feels about being married off to five brother who are also rulers. Having been familiar with the Mahabharata, I thought that this was a unique retelling of the epic poem (the longest poem in history). I believe that The Palace of Illusions will intrigue anyone and will make you want to learn more about Mahabharata.

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About the reviewer: Saj Bewtra is originally from India, but has lived in America for 50 years. She has worked at Tredyffrin Public Library for almost 25 years now.   She is an avid volunteer for many organizations and loves spending time with her grandchildren.