Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The best-selling Houston-based writer sets her new novel, The Palace of Illusions , in the fifth millennium BCE. Based on India’s epic Mahabharat poem, it examines love and war from the perspective of Princess Panchaali. ( Read an excerpt .)

What concerns did you have in tackling such a beloved text?

The Mahabharat is so vast and complex—I didn’t want to dilute the feel of that amazing, mythic world. Yet I knew I had to make it accessible and relevant for modern readers.

What parallels would you draw between war in 6000 BCE and 2008?

Unfortunately the human situation hasn’t changed. Palace, I hope, enables readers to see and feel the huge cost of war—in terms of who dies, the guilt and trauma of those who cause death and suffering, and the sorrow of those who must live on when their dear ones are victims.

Will your next novel return to a modern setting?

I’ve been working on a magical trilogy for children. The first book had a contemporary setting, the second went into India’s past, and the third, Shadowland, goes into a dystopian future where the air is brown and unbreathable and two power groups, the magicians and the scientists, are at each other’s throats. Doubleday, $23.95 (Read the full interview .)

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