Meisha's Reviews > The Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
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's review
Dec 01, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011
Read in December, 2011

I read this book because when I skimmed the description it sounded interesting and when I started it, the book kept my interest. I had no idea it was a retelling of an Indian epic, I thought it was a fantastic story until I finished and I researched a principle/theological question I had from the reading. Then I realized this was a retelling, told from a woman's perspective. That said, this book introduced me to this Indian epic and prompted some thoughts about my own heart desires and resulting actions.

I felt the characters were complex, the descriptions of desires and motivations showed the internal conflict part of decision making. I enjoyed the logical journeys the main character made in thinking through or discovering the motivations of the other character. I feel those logical journeys are totally uncharacteristic of a woman in the time period, even royalty, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. I did not know the names or characteristics of deities or traditions critical to the story and missed some of their importance. One thing in particular that I don't understand still bothers me-why did Krisha give the main character the marriage advice that he did? From what I gathered from the story, Krishna is a jokester, a god who loves earthly things (like women and loving them) but also loves truth, love, and peace. The advice that Krishna gives leads to war, and the understanding I got from the story was that he knew that would happen and was pleased about it. I was also confused at the end when Krishna said he was pleased with the main character's life, including all her selfishness and bad characteristics she plainly describes throughout. Like I said, I think I missed a lot of significance by not knowing about the deities and traditions.

The book foreshadows a lot; initially the previews were exciting but eventually exceeded the overkill point for me. I did not understand the significance of the end at all. I have this burning desire to know how the main character's thoughts came to be written down. The way the story was going, I thought she would tell her grandson, or Krishna, but she didn't. I understand that the sage already wrote the story down, but not hers, not her thoughts an feelings.

I felt Draupiti was extremely hard on herself, blaming herself for outcomes she was not the only contributor to. She did recognize the input of others sometimes, but always highlighted and enlarged her role in the bad outcome. I realized sometimes I do that same thing. The main point I learned from this book: to realistically analyze how my thoughts or actions contributed to whatever doom and gloom situation I'm experiencing, not to exaggerate my influence in good or bad outcomes that I am not the only contributor to.

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