#5 The Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan
The Kaunteyas is an elegant re-telling of the Mahabharatha, from the eyes of the mother of the Kaunteyas (Pandavas), Kunti. As a huge Mahabharatha junkie, it doesn’t take much to convince me to try a new rendition of it. Furthermore, the fact that Kunti was now at the center of a tale where to me, she had only ever been a mother and wife, piqued my interest. Always on the lookout for good Indian writing, I was extremely excited about this book.
The Kaunteyas follows Kunti’s life, from her childhood as a neglected foster child, to as a change-maker in the Great War. I am not even going to attempt to summarize the plot, because there is no way I could ever do justice to this absolutely complex epic. But for the uninitiated, the Mahabahartha follows the lives of a few generations of kings and sages, and culminates in a Great War between good and evil, all while telling hundreds of other significant plot-lines with thousands of fascinating characters. For a tale about a Great War, it’s no surprise that a bulk of the central characters are men. To see a woman influence her way through a male dominated universe, was incredibly refreshing, to say the least. In an epic, that has Karma and Dharma at its very core, the author beautifully brings out the massive ripples that small actions have.
The book is extremely well researched. Many of the subplots were new to me and were fascinating to read. The fact that it only took me a couple of days to finish this book, speaks of its riveting nature. But unfortunately the book left me a little disappointed. I personally found Madhavi’s style a little orotund and too florid for my liking. At points, the language seemed forced and the style, stale. What could have been an extraordinary novel, ended up falling short for me because of her lack of literary restrain. Maybe my extremely high expectations of the book, left me a little dissatisfied. Or maybe it was the incredible company of authors she was attempting to stand amidst.
Nevertheless, The Kaunteyas is definitely a book I would wholeheartedly recommend. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on the people and their relationships in this age old tale, do pick it up. It makes for some really moving reading.