Book Bonanza

Last week, when I went to my neighbourhood library, I was in for a huge surprise. There was a huge selection of new stock lined up and there were some books that I had been dying to read.

I picked up 19 books, out of which three were Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni books. It is really no exaggeration to say that my joy knew no bounds. I had so many on my list that I was delighted to get hold of these. So off I started on a CBD marathon starting off with The Palace of Illusions.

The Palace of Illusions

This was one book I had read a lot about and have to say, that I was not disappointed at all. The familiar story of Mahabharata narrated by Draupadi. The woman who nobody names their daughters after.  The fiery woman, born from fire,  with a mind of her own , in a time where it was not appreciated. Starting from her childhood where she is the unexpected, unwanted daughter till the end.  It was refreshing to read the familiar story, which most of us have grown up with, from a woman’s perspective and that too, a woman who had a hand in the way it all turned out. Here we see her human side, how she overcame her own complexes, how she learnt to use people to her benefit. Her love of her brother, who she felt needed her support and help. How she even gave up her deepest desire in order to save his life, only to see him killed far more brutally later.

The title alludes to the Palace of Illusions which the Pandavas and Draupadi designed. Their joy and  pride, which also in some ways ended up as their downfall.  The presence of Krishna, who is by far, my favourite character in the Mahabharata, in almost every important part of her life. There is something about Krishna!

The most moving part was her feelings for Karna. Being married to five men and yet yearning for their arch-enemy( and elder brother, unknown to them). It made me wish that somehow the story ends happily, and they get to be with each other.

There was something about the way CBD narrates the story through Draupadi which captivated me throughout. Totally worth the read.

Queen of Dreams


Rakhi, a struggling artist and divorced single mother, is struggling to keep her living while bringing up her daughter in Berkeley. Her mother is a dream teller and growing up, all she wanted was to be just like her mother. Her father was a non-entity for her – all she could recall of him was of him singing Hindi movie songs.

It is after her mother’s death that she starts to understand her father.  Just as she and her friend Belle were to lose their livelihood, that her father steps in, helps transform their nondescript Chai house into the International Kurma House. Rakhi’s self discovery continues as she struggles between trying to understand her mother, herself and her daughter. Her ex-husband’s familiarity with her parents and friends and daughter is also unsettling for her and she continues to resist all his efforts at a reconciliation.

Right in the middle of all this Sept 11 happens, bringing up new questions, new doubts for all of them. I think it also helped bring some clarity for Rakhi.

It was a fascinating read, more so because of the unique concept of dream telling. Rakhi’s mother’s struggle to keep a balance between her dream telling and her life with her daughter and husband, Rakhi’s struggle to understand her mother, the yearning, to be like her and to try and be a good mother to her daughter is brought out so beautifully. It just amazed me how CBD handled it all. For me, it was a fascinating read. I found it totally un-putdown-able.

Vine of Desire

This book, was not as captivating as her other books. It is supposed to take off where Sisters of My Heart – which I have not read. So I think I will probably write about this, after I read that as well. But as it was, it was not as good as her other books – that I have read. In some parts of the book, I find it difficult to understand why the characters behave the way they do.

All in all, I like the way she writes, she does manage to capture one’s imagination, most of the time.  I think Sister of My Heart is the next book that I would like to read of hers.  Though I think I have had my fill of  stories of immigrants in America. I am now reading The Silent Raga – which I am thoroughly enjoying. A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian. I just picked it up on a whim – have any of you read it? Is it worth the read?

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44 thoughts on “Book Bonanza

  1. First!!!
    Must have been refreshing to read Draupadi’s version of history 🙂 Will place a reservation for the book too!

    Pallu – you should try it! I loved it 🙂

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  2. oh the other two are so in my list and POI I loved the book…. and welcome to the book reviewing club smitha 😉

    Thank you Monika 🙂 I find it very difficult to review books – but you guys have inspired me 🙂

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  3. Oh no ! Is this Smitas blog or Smithas ? good god ! stop visiting her blog will ya ?

    LOL! You must be cursing all of us with book reviews 🙂

    Ok, so need to comment something na ? hmmm….ok…

    the cover of the first book is good 😀 😀

    Am sure the designer of the book cover will be delighted 🙂

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  4. I have read Panchali’s Mahabharat and ‘Sister of my heart’ but none of the others. I found some bits difficult to understand here, she seems to imply that there are some things we can’t control…
    Still in many ways a very positive book. She does show how mothers can take decisions that can make a huge difference to the children’s (daughter’s) future.


    Yes, in some ways, I found the characters behaviour in Vines of Desire difficult to understand.. ‘how mothers can take decisions that can make a huge difference to the children’s (daughter’s) future.’ – Yes, she indicated this in this book as well – but I think I will have to read Sisters of my heart to understand it completely.

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  5. I went and searched GM’s post on the book and my comment there. Hehehe http://impassionedchronicles.blogspot.com/2009/10/book-i-loved-and-yet-disagreed-with.html

    Now let me copy-paste my own comment from there.

    My opinion about The Palace of Illusions. I also agree to Bones’ opinion on GM’s blog.

    “Even though I like different interpretations to our epics still I couldn’t make myself to like this book.

    I felt this was written very childishly without much research. A different take would be justified if it still stays true to that time period. Giving modern values and thoughts to a lady who lived in that era spoiled it for me.”


    You may be right… I actually still enjoyed the book. Maybe because it made her more easy to identify with. But what are the values that you felt were particularly modern and misplaced? Just to know..

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  6. I have to admit I haven’t read any of CBD’s books. But after reading your book I sure feel like giving them a try, especially the Draupadi one. She has been , to me, one of the most intriguing female characters in our epics.

    She certainly is intriguing. Hope you like CBD’s take 🙂

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  7. Thanks for the reviews Smitha, I haven’t had a read of any of these books, may be it’s time for me give a look for them in the library 😀

    Do let me know how you find them if you do read them 🙂

    Happy reading 😀

    Cheers!!

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  8. Vibe of Desire is not one of her better books. I had read “Sister of my heart” fallen in love with it (it was my 1st CBD book) and wt not I did to get this book. But was so mighty disappointed ki I can’t tell you. It is not even a patch on the 1st book which was excellent!!! Do read that one.

    Have to read it, Smita. I haven’t been able to get hold of it yet.

    I am a big CBD fan and besides vine of desire & Mistress of Spices I love all her books. In fact her latest is coming out in Feb. “One Amazing thing” sigh!! In India it releases next year!

    I will keep an eye out for that one – better still, will read it after reading your review 🙂

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  9. Smits,I was waiting for these reviews from you,esp of POI 🙂 . I had gone to the book store last week to buy the same,but unfortunately they were out of stock. It certainly is in my must-by list. After reading your review,even more so.

    POI is definitely worth it – atleast I really liked it.

    BTW,I’ve loved TTW so far 🙂 . Very gripping!

    TTW is good, isn’t it? I just loved it too! It is on my re-read list 🙂

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  10. I am currently reading POI too .. so far, I hv really liked it 🙂
    I so wanna get the 2nd one .. hs been on my list for sometime now 🙂

    Do review it when you are done 🙂

    Gr8 reviews Smithu ..luved them all 🙂
    And Krishna, I luv his character too .. mixture of so so many emotions 🙂


    oh me too! There is something abt Krishna, isn’t there? I just finished The Silent Raga – and it is quite nice – worth the read.

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  11. I have been searching for palace of illusions in bookstores in my city but its not available. Will order it online.

    It is certainly worth the effort 🙂 I hope you like it.

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  12. Sounds Fascinating…the ‘Palace of Illusions’ especially….I have never read this authors books but am definitely going to trad them after reading your post.

    Thanks for the reviews 🙂

    Hope you like it 🙂 POI is definitely worth it.

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  13. Good to read your post Smitha. I have not read any of these but will pick them up soon. thanks for the post

    Welcome here , tikulicious. I love your name , btw 🙂 Hope you like them too 🙂

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  14. Thanks for the reviews Smitha-now I know what to pick up [when I get the time 😦 ]


    With all the party planning that you are doing, am sure you are busy till the last minute 🙂 Do read them when you get a chance 🙂

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  15. I’ve heard about Palace of Illusions from so many bloggers… But am I supposed to read it? I’m a man 😛

    Heck, I even read Girls of Riyadh so I should read this I think.

    LOL! How can you read it – it is a book just for women 😉

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  16. 19 books haan? 😆 you sounded like you were famished for books in Great Britain 🙄 Btw at any given time half of our library’s books are found in my home 😛 It’s a boon that our library is just half a mile away..

    Arre, I always take 20 books(for three weeks) – that is the max allowed. But one book was taken by my husband who has not even opened it after getting it from the lib! I can’t tell you how mad I am that I can’t take one more book of my quota 🙂 I have been after him to get a card of his own – in which case I could take 20 of mine + 19 in his card – but my lazy husband is just not obliging 🙂

    In London, I used to go to the lib almost everyday – I used to finish a book and take it back and exchange it- the staff used to joke that I am one of the customers who make their lib look lively 🙂 Here it is a mile away so I don’t go that often.

    I loved Palace of Illusions for two reasons..
    1. Panchali talks about Krishna a lot and not like as if he was a god. Like you, Krishna is my all time favourite character in the epic. I adored him so much that, I once wrote an essay about him and my teacher was horrified 😆 How I wish I had that with me now…sobs..

    Aww! I just love that guy 🙂 I used to hope that the Kali yug avataar is just like Krishna and that I would get to meet him 🙂 But why was your teacher horrified?

    2. It was good to see that Draupadi in the story had no qualms about her temper, rebel nature, desires etc.

    Somehow I didn’t like the Karna love angle in the book. I thought this forbidden love thing was too much..ahem! Any ways I enjoyed the book very much 😛

    Karna love angle – the way I look at it, she just added to add some masala 🙂 Call it literary license.. but I did think that the Karna story made Draupadi look more vulnerable.. and real in some ways..

    I am reading CDB’s Sister of My Heart right now and plan to stay away from CDB for a while after this 😦

    I have to read Sister of my heart – if I ever find it in my library.

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    • Lolz I totally understand your need for 2 cards… I got my own the moment I got my driver’s license as a residence proof. I am planning to get my son’s school id so that he can have his own card too :mrgreen:

      My teacher was horrified coz I almost wrote a love letter praising Krishna when I was in 3rd or 4th grade 😉

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      • Thankfully here we don’t need the driving license as residence proof – we can use utility bills or bank statements. Poohi has her own card too – it is only husband dear who is too lazy to get his own card 🙂

        LOL@ Love letter praising Krishna 🙂 One more Gopi in his list 🙂

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  17. I’m interested to now read the sequel to Sister of my Heart.

    Me too 🙂

    The Silent Raga was quite good in my opinion…ending was a bit flat but liked how the protagonist fought against the norms…even if I did disagree with the whole Tam-Brahm thing (being one myself). But I figured it probably is that way down south versus being born and brought up in Bombay. 😛


    Just completed The Silent Raga – and I agree with you – the ending was flat. I liked the way the book was written – otherwise. As for the Tam Brahm thing – yes, I have known loads of Tam Brahms – but none of them so orthodox – but then most of them lived outside TN – so that might have made a difference too – but I do think that the family portrayed was very orthodox.

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  18. Hey! I’ve never read any Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni books. But after reading your reviews, I will certainly get Palace of Illusions. 🙂

    You should give it a try – it was worth it.

    And, BTW, I’m shocked. You picked up 19 books to take home to read, in which you have already completed 3?? 😯

    I read way too much 🙂 I always take my whole quota of books 🙂 I come home with huge bags bulging with books 🙂

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  19. I envy you, Smitha! One day I will re-start reading like I was doing till some years back – marathon reading – will look up for the list of books to read! Enjoy!


    This is one thing I love about the UK – Libraries are wonderful! ANd you also have books in Indian languages! My parents were stunned to find Malayalam books! So I make the most of it – and all this is for free – I don’t pay a penny to borrow books 🙂

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    • No need to pay, even a small amount? Great!


      No – its is all free. We pay something called council tax – which takes care of all this – garbage collection, library services etc ..

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  20. err..so many books…they sound so high fundu..

    High fundu ? Why? Pure timepass 🙂 Lazy bones like me have no other work, you see 🙂

    why cant your just read Enid Blyton? :p

    Oh I can read Enid Blytons too 🙂 I love Enid Blytons 🙂

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  21. I second Vimmuuu… I was like, did I visit the wrong Smit(h)a’s blog??? 😀 😀 😀

    LOL! See, Smita has been inspiring me to do reviews as well 🙂

    anyway nicely written. Now u’ve given me a couple of more names to the list of books which I wanna read!

    Hope you try them and like them 🙂

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  22. Thanks for introducing these books Smitha… I will read someday.. but surely your pace is amazing.. 20 books in 21 days… I am taking atleast a week to finish a book.. 😦 😦


    I read way too much – my parents used to despair of how many books I used to read 🙂 Some people live to eat – I live to read 🙂 Do try them – hope you like them too.

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  23. Still yet to read all 3 books!
    Thank you for the reviews… 🙂
    Was in Crosswords just yesterday and I totally forgot about these books!
    Remembered one from Smita’s review – David Baldacchi’s book – so picked that one up!
    Will read these soon too….

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  24. First-time to your page from nancy’s reflections..! I have been reminding myself to read reviews of CBD’s books (specially the first) before I buy a copy.
    Thank you for making my job simpler. I liked your review Smitha. I’m debating whether I should buy the first or second book right away..or both?! 😉

    Cheers!!

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  25. ihave palace of illusions and sister of my heart..didn’t know abt the other two books…thanks for informing 🙂 Will read them too…CBD rocks 🙂

    Yes CBD certainly rocks 🙂

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  26. When i read this post first(in my reader) , i thought its smita’s post …..and she also wrote book reviews at same time ….. anyways not my type of books 🙂

    Everybody seems to have the same question 🙂

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  27. 20books in 20days…u r most voracious reader i have seen 😉


    I read too much – my parents used to be very worried that I would flunk my exams because I used to spend so much time reading.

    Soon u will beat smita’s record too 😉
    If i finish one book in one week…i say it as big accomplishment..
    Read lot of reviews abt poi..but i dont like mythology….some how feel it real boring
    though i would luv to read other books of CBD !!

    Do try them – they are really good 🙂

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  28. Liked the reviews and made note of the books i need to get once i finish the books i brought from india.

    Here there used to one library which got closed few months back,i don’t understand full country has very few libraries 😦

    Hope you get the books. I really appreciate the libraries here.

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  29. Pingback: A real treat – Palace of Illusions | Writer-z-block

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