The Palace of Illusions: Book summary and reviews of The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Feb 2008,
    384 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Whether or not readers are familiar with the Mahabharat epic, still fascinating and relevant several millennia on, they will enjoy this entertaining, insightful, and suspenseful story. Recommended for all fiction collections." - Library Journal.

"Despite an intrusive retrospective voice and a sometimes heavy-handed feminism, Divakaruni's rich, action-filled narrative contrasts well with the complex psychological portrait of a mythic princess." - Publishers Weekly.

"Occasionally the novel falls flat - decades and events flash by with mere mention, one suspects a result of compressing such a rich work into such a small space - but Divakaruni mostly succeeds in creating an intimate, feminine portrait that is both contemporary and timeless." - Kirkus Reviews.

The information about The Palace of Illusions shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by shaikh m a
an interesting exploration into female psychology
I personally admire the author for her judicious effort to redefine the epic poem the Mahabharat from feminine perspective.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Ellen
A fairytale for women
If you enjoy fantasy, romance novels, mythology and fairytales, this book is for you, and only for you. It centers around the life of Panchaali, a Princess who marries five brothers -all at the same time- and the power struggle between two families. It is based upon "a world famous Indian epic" but I found the writing to be condescending and uninspiring. There are many characters in the story which I found difficult to keep track of, especially when I didn't pick up the book for a couple of days. In fact, the book has a family chart, a glossary of characters and an author's note to help the reader keep track of all of the characters. Nonetheless, I still struggled to keep them and each of their travails straight. It is chick-lit without the wit, spice and fun. In summary, the book wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would be.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Renee
Palace Of Illusions
This book was a fabulous book. I read it all in one setting. It was well written and interesting to be thrown into another culture's myths and beliefs. It was fascinating. The author used foreshadowing often, because of all those hints I was dying to devour the book, I wanted to know what happened! The main character, Panchaali, was really fun to get to know, she was strong and personable. I would recommend this book to book clubs because there are many ideas and topics that can spring people into conversation. Honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good book with adventure, culture and love.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Barbara
The Palace of Illusions
Although I found the book had many "gaps" I did enjoy reading it. The gaps occurred because many characters were not well defined and because the plot is shaky. What is the main character really seeking? Actually the story line comes down to the relationship between Princess Panchaali and her mother-in-law.

Much emphasis is placed on family devotion yet the Princess gives birth to two sons and no mention is made of them until almost the end of the story. Only two of her five husbands are given any attention at all and one of those are addressed only in passing. The reader learns nothing of the others. The same can be said of the only two people in her life who are faithful to her, her brother and good friend, Krishna.
Despite these flaws the books does hold one's interest.

There is much fantasy in the book but if it the reader is given to this the book is worth reading.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Nancy C. Cullinan
Flashlight Award!
The Palace of Illusions was my introduction to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's work, and it was a pleasure to read. Her book definitely qualifies for what I call the "under the covers with a flashlight" award. Let me stress that I value my sleep, but so as not to disturb my hubby, I found myself clutching the flashlight for just a few more pages of magical, mystical, delightful story-telling before I drifted off to sleep. I'm eager to read everything else she has written.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Beverly Grindeland
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakuruni
This was an interesting well-written story. Although it is a little
difficult to follow the plot without some knowledge of the story of
the "Mahabharata", which has been called the national epic of India. I looked up the story of the Mahabharata on the Internet (Google it) and found several sites with a good synopsis. The author has done a good job of giving voices to these mythical
characters.

The Palace of Illusions is a good example of why I love to read Historical Fiction. It was interesting to read and I was informed of something I didn't know before reading the book.

...11 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Author Biography

© Anand Divakaruni

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 have been translated into 13 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew and Japanese.

She was born in India and lived there until 1976, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Website

Other books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at BookBrowse
  • Vine of Desire jacket
  • The Unknown Errors of Our Lives jacket

10 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  162The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.