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The Palace of Illusions

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2008,
    384 pages.

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There are currently 17 reader reviews for The Palace of Illusions
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Kenneth (03/12/08)

Another good book by Divakaruni
This is a very interesting retelling of the classic Indian epic, The Mahabharat, this time with the focus on our heroine, Panchaali. She is born of fire, together with her brother, with whom she shares a very tight bond. Eventually, Panchaali marries five brothers, living with each for twelve months at a time, learning not only how to deal with them but also with their mother. There are civil war battles, banishments, etc. everything you would expect in an epic tale.

This book should be of interest to: 1) fans of Divakaruni's other works, 2) those who are familiar with The Mahabharat (although this is not a prerequisite), 3) those who are looking for a novel with a very different story line, perhaps a break from their traditional reading.
Linda (03/10/08)

An Epic Story
The Mahabharat is an epic poem that tells the tale of the Pandava and Kaurava families and their rivalry for the throne of Hastinapur. The author uses that poem as the basis for her retelling, imagining the story from the view point of Panchaali, the woman who was the wife of the five Pandava brothers. Divakaruni effortlessly weaves history, mythology and magic together into a fantastical retelling of this tale.
At times I had a little difficulty with the names in the book as they were sometimes very similar, but I soon was able to follow the story line and was captivated by Panchaali. I read through the last half of the book in one sitting, I had to know how everything turned out. I loved the ending; it was the perfect finish to a wonderful story.
This book was unlike anything I have ever read, as I knew nothing of the history of this story. I think this would be a great book for reading groups, there are so many topics to discuss.
Kristina (03/09/08)

Elusive Palace of Illusions
I usually enjoy reading books about other cultures (for example, The Kite Runner), but this one was hard for me to get into. Perhaps it's because I am not familiar with Hindi culture, or because I don't typically enjoy mythology. I like books that challenge my thinking, and this was well-written, I just had a hard time getting into the story. I would recommend this book for people familiar with Hindi culture and stories.
Ann (03/07/08)

The Palace of Illusions
Not having some knowledge of Indian myths was a detriment in reading The Palace of Illusions. As I began the book, I found terms with which I was not familiar. Hence, I had to work. However, as I continued reading, it became much more intriguing and rewarding.

The development and maturation of Panchaali, as well as her perspective as the narrator were highlights for me and caused me to pause and reflect on life in general.
Marie-Jeanne (03/05/08)

Palace of Illusions
Although I am a great fan of mythology, folk tales, and fairy tales, I am not very familiar with the stories of Hinduism. This book was a wonderful introduction, and I will be seeking out more.

I hope Ms. Divakaruni chooses to retell other stories from this tradition, as this book grabbed me from the beginning. I stayed awake until around 3:00 a.m. for two nights because I couldn't stop reading until my eyes just wouldn't stay open.

Panchaali is a fascinating character, full of contrasts. Born in fire and dying in ice. Filled with unrequited love and hatred for the same person. As we follow her tale of ambition and revenge, we learn of the dangers of hubris that results in destruction of a world.

I highly recommend this book for anyone with a taste for romance, adventure, magic, and fully developed characters. There is so much here that a book group could discuss it for several sessions.
Julie (03/04/08)

Confusing Palace of Illusions
This book is a "reimagining" of a world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat. Unfortunately, I had never heard of this epic and didn't find it particularly intriguing. Maybe it was trying to figure out who was who - the names were confusing, even with a family chart and a list of main characters included. I usually enjoy reading books about different cultures, but this one just didn't grab me.
Elise (03/03/08)

Entertaining and Meaningful
The Palace of Illusions is a mythological story that takes place in ancient India (roughly 6000 to 5000 BCE). As in Greek mythology, the lives of humans and gods intersect and magic occurs daily. The author does such an excellent job of pulling you so deep into the story line that the impossible no longer seems so. It was a time when everything was magic – the sunrise, moon, stars, weather – everything! I would highly recommend The Palace of Illusions because, not only was it entertaining, but has many deeper messages interwoven. Having recently lost my father, the author’s passages dealing with death brought me great comfort. The book also made me reflect on my personal relationships and our roles in each other’s “life story”. Some of the ideas presented in this book will stay with me a long time.
Ruth Harris (02/29/08)

The Palace of Illusions
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni writes of a girl becoming a woman in the 3rd Age of Man in the novel The Palace of Illusions. Princess Panchaali is destined to become queen and the book is about the long journey of life. The story deals with fate, conscience, power of voice, omens, obsessions, vengeance and so much more. It also deals with perceptions, illusions, but at heart it is about relationships. It's all the many and varied relationships that moves the story along and keeps you reading. Divakaruni does an excellent job of ending short chapters with a bit of foreshadowing that keeps one turning the pages. It's a good retelling of an old story with a strong, determined female character leading the way.
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