The Palace of Illusions Summary and Reviews

The Palace of Illusions

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2008
    384 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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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.

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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

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.


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.

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.


A Beautifully Moving Saga
It was with great pleasure that I dove into Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and upon reading it, I was not disappointed. I have read nearly all of Divakaruni's books, and this is just another in a long line of colorful, magical, and insightful offerings from this author. The story is the tale of the life of Panchaali, an Indian historical/mythical character from the famous Mahabharat. The book is filled with touches of magical realism and character portrayals that will keep the reader engaged and craving more of the story. The story has much to say about the awful destruction that war wreaks upon its participants, and also contains many illuminating passages speculating the divine in everyday life. The last passages are hauntingly beautiful, and remarkably moving. If you are looking for a flavorful yet unconventional re-telling of some of India's most marvelous stories, you can't go wrong with this gem of a book. Highly recommended.


Magic and Mystery in the Palace of Illusions
The Palace of Illusions is full of magic and imagery as only Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni can create. Her style of magical realism rivals those of the Latin American writers, establishing a new genre of Indian mysticism. The novel is a retelling of an ancient Indian text, but has all of the elements of a modern tale, sure to become a classic in its own right.


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.

...11 more reader reviews

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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 a bakery, and ...

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

Name Pronunciation
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: chi-TH-rah ban-ERH-jee deewah-karoonee

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