Karna’s Wife Vs Palace of Illusions

Has any book made you drop it suddenly? Turned you off so much, after initially enthralling you, that you felt compelled to just stopped reading it and moving on to the next book?

Well, “Karna’s wife” by Kavita Kane, turned out to be one such book for me…unexpectedly.
The narrative is enticing and the language rich with strong imagery. As for the plot it started as an entrancing retelling, re-imagination of a slice of Mahabaratha with the focus on Karna and told from the perspective of his second wife Uruvi.
I got as far as the part where post Uruvi’s Swayamwara, Uruvi is trying to explain what drew her to Karna from the time she set eyes on him.
I remained unconvinced and infact at this stage began to find the dialogues a little jarring. While my mind was already questioning the regressive tone…Uruvi is told that Karna is already happily married with kids…yet she yearns for him…the height of infatuation perhaps? When asked if she was forced to choose Karna, she denies it and her character is shown as completely and totally taken in by Karna’s negative/tragic hero image, his golden looks, his archery skill. Even when Karna casually and calmly states how he lost his son Sudama during the scuffle at Draupadi’s Swayamvara, she takes it in her stride just like that and the conversation moves on smoothly without a single hiccup.
At this point my mind is suddenly screaming…wait…what? Karna already had a child when he attended Draupadi’s Swayamvara, who was killed during that event? Is this true as per the earlier version of mythology? He claims he is happily married and yet turns up at the next princess’ swayamwara, he got the invite for?
Suddenly both the characters, the flow of the story quickly lost the pleasantness and charm and abruptly invoked an opposite emotion.

Maybe the fact that I had already read Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, added to the disillusionment with Karna’s wife.
Ofcourse the book Karna’s Wife offers just another perspective and while I absolutely encourage and welcome this growing trend of portraying multiple perspectives of the various characters from mythologies, and the diverse interpretations, this particular retelling did not appeal to me.

Palace of illusions completely mesmerized me, invoking strong and powerful emotions. In a way Karna’s wife did that too I guess, though not in an appealing sort of way. Probably there are fixed expectations in my mind blocking me from appreciating the story.
Palace of Illusions made me empathize with the characters. That was a fictional interpretation of mythology too. It created a strong base, infusing it with a realistic feel that justified the resulting emotions and the thought process of the protagonist Draupadi and her perception of Karna and others and her doomed tragic love. A perfectly intoxicating blend of the emotions, descriptions, thoughts to match the interpretation of situations, it was.

Btw, I confess I read “Menaka’s choice” by Kavita Kane prior to “Karna’s Wife” and enjoyed that one! Liked the portrayal of the characters and emotions apart from the flow of language and story. I didn’t realize there was so much mythological content around Menaka.

Disclaimer: Just felt like sharing my thoughts, as the way the book effected me, took me by surprise. Actually I am very interested in knowing how others felt about the book, as that would help me analyse my own knee-jerk reaction towards the book. Probably unfair of me to juxtapose Palace of illusions with Karna’s Wife…as that was not the underlying intent here. Please don’t let me influence your decision to pick up the book. Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I believe appeal for a book lies in the mind of the reader.

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