Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Literature / Persona / Writer

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, a Vidushi of our times

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s forthcoming novel The Last Queen is based on the life & times of Queen Jindan Kaur and is set to release in India on January 20, 2021.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the much-loved author of sixteen novels. Her body of work includes the bestsellers like The Palace of Illusions and The Forest of Enchantments. Her books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and two have been turned into films. Divakaruni was born in Kolkata and moved to the United States for her graduate studies. She currently lives in Houston, Texas.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s short story collection, Arranged Marriage won the American Book Award in 1996, and two of her novels (The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart), as well as one short story The Word Love, were adapted into films. The Mistress of Spices was short-listed for the Orange Prize. Currently, Sister of My Heart, Oleander Girl, Palace of Illusions, and One Amazing Thing have all been optioned to be made into movies or TV serials.

Light at the end of the tunnel

As the publishing industry reeled under the pandemic, it was hit more in countries like India where books are not considered essential commodities. Resultingly, brick-and-mortar bookshops remained closed, and a huge chunk of revenue got smoked in thin air. Publishers held on to their dear lives and kept their latest blockbuster titles on hold. And now that things are opening up and slowly moving to the new normal, Harper Collins India announced the release date of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s latest book, The Last Queen.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s latest book comes out as a much-needed breather to the publishing industry in a time when the apex literary events like Jaipur Literature Festival have gone online which essentially means they are not happening.

You can’t organize a festival online but you can take the carnival to the people.

The extent to which this particular book was being waited for can be gauged from the following lines by Shabana Azmi:

In The Last Queen, Chitra has written an unforgettable story about the fearless, much-feared queen whom history seems to have forgotten. Jindan is heroic. Her strength and spirit are a lesson for us.

Shabana Azmi

But as the avid readers wait for the book, and the publishing industry too, with bated breath, we introduce you to some of her best works here:

Arranged Marriage: Stories

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni made her fiction debut with these 11 stories about transformation and immigration. Release way back in 1995, this book still remains a brilliant portrayal of a life lived in steps.

The Mistress of Spices

Starting on a new journey, making her place in the genre of literary romance, Chitra Divakaruni wrote this ambitious first novel that puts magic and mysticism into a contemporary urban setting. The narrator of the book, born in India with supernatural gifts, has learned the secrets of spices. Upon taking her vows as a Mistress of Spices, Tilo is granted immortality on several conditions, one being that she must never succumb to carnal desires.

Sister of My Heart

Like the old tales of India that are filled with emotional filigree and flowery prose, Divakaruni’s (The Mistress of Spices) latest work is a masterful allegory of unfulfilled desire and sacrificial love. It is also an intricate modern drama in which generations and castes struggle over old and new mores.

Queen of Dreams

Spiked with elements of mystery, suspense and the supernatural, Divakaruni’s sixth novel is a pleasantly atypical tale of self-discovery. Rakhi, a single mother and struggling artist living in Berkeley, Calif., has always been vaguely aware of her own mother’s unusual gift—the ability to interpret dreams.

The Palace of Illusions

Recasting the Indian epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Princess Panchaali, veteran novelist Divakaruni (Queen of Dream ) offers a vivid and inventive companion to the renowned poem. Born from fire and marked with the prophecy that she will change the course of history, the strong-willed Panchaali declares early on that she won’t spend her life merely supporting the men around her.

One Amazing Thing

In a soggy treatment of catastrophe and enlightenment, Divakaruni (The Mistress of Spices ) traps a group of nine diverse people in the basement of an Indian consulate in an unidentified American city after an earthquake. Two are émigrés who work for the consulate; the others are in the building to apply for visas. With very little food, rising floodwater, dwindling oxygen, and no electricity or phone service, the victims fend off panic by taking turns sharing the central stories of their lives.

Oleander Girl

An engaged woman in a traditional Indian family discovers harrowing secrets about her birth parents in the latest from Divakaruni (after 2010’s One Amazing Thing). As her mother died in childbirth, Korobi Roy was raised by her grandparents, who led her to believe her father died in an accident. But after becoming engaged to the wealthy son of art dealers, Korobi’s protective grandfather has a sudden heart attack and the truth about her paternity emerges, leading her on a controversial quest across the world to find a birth father she believes to be alive. 

The Forest of Enchantments

The Ramayana, one of the world’s greatest epics, is also a tragic love story. In this brilliant retelling, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni places Sita at the center of the novel: this is Sita’s version. The Forest of Enchantments is also a very human story of some of the other women in the epic, often misunderstood and relegated to the margins: Kaikeyi, Surpanakha, Mandodari. A powerful comment on duty, betrayal, infidelity, and honor, it is also about women’s struggle to retain autonomy in a world that privileges men, as Chitra transforms an ancient story into a gripping, contemporary battle of wills. 

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of the foremost storytellers of our times. With a huge fan following, she is not only setting new market norms but also challenging the convention by presenting us with different perspectives on our myths.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a writer par excellence, she is a Vidushi of our times.

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