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BOOK REVIEW: 'Mandodari: Queen of Lanka' by Manini J. Anandani

A Soulful story of a daughter,wife,mother & then a queen!
A Brilliant Retelling!


BOOK: Mandodari: Queen of Lanka
Author: Manini J. Anandani
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date:
Genre: Mythological Fiction/Epic

Blurb: Borrowing from Sanghadasa's Jaina version of the Ramayana, Mandodari-one of the least known characters of the Hindu epic-is finally given a voice.

Considered to be one of the most beautiful apsaras, she was married off to the mighty Ravana, the legendary king of Lanka. In her story, she speaks about her struggles after her marriage, her insecurities and her pious nature that challenged her husband's growing aspirations. She narrates the rise of Ravana's power and the blunders he made that ultimately caused the downfall of Lanka.

Despite her husband's faults, Mandodari loved him and advised him to follow the path of righteousness. Ravana's defeat in a thirteen-day war turned him into a villain. But what if he were the real hero on his side of the war? What if his downfall was a result of scheming to push him out of power? This is Mandodari's story.


REVIEW: 'Ramayana', One of the two grand epic of India, is in our blood. From child we have been living it. So it's always difficult to retell this epic, but debut with it, was a gallant decision. But the author played a masterstroke by choosing the main protagonist as well as the story teller of this retelling. She chose Mandadori, surely underrated in contrast of the other grand characters of Ramayana. I have read the 'Krittibashi Ramayan', saw many adaptation of the Valmiki Ramayana, but there the views were from the other side. We used to see Rama as the hero and The Ravens as the devil. We hardly know anything from the Ravana's side. And the author chose Ravana's wife to retell this epic. That was almost unique for me. The only thing I have read similar to it was some part of Micheal Madhusudan's 'Meghnad Bod Kavya'.

The best thing about the book is that the author told the story of a queen more as a normal woman than a queen. She used to gossip with her sakhis, love her parents, be jealous when other women sleep with her husband and cry when her children die. The author portrayed Mandodari as a lovely daughter, dutiful wife,a caring mother and then a queen. An extract I found brilliant is:

"why had the Gods been so unfair to me?My daughter was estranged from me. I had left her all those years ago and she had found her way back to me.Even though I could not love her like her mother.Then Meghnath, who is more his father's son then mine. Worst of all the loss of AkshayaKumar, my youngest in a ridiculous battle.Was this to be my fate as a Queen?"

From the start to finish, the author managed to keep the story through Mandodari's eye and never told those happening which we know from Ramayana but Mandodari didn't. That's really inimitable. The royal set creating, the character building was fine. The storytelling style was simple but soulful. The novel is full of a lot of things we don't know. We can see a fully different side of Lankeswar Ravana. The author made the characters and the set lively with her skill. She detailed the plot when needed, and shortened when not, so the book size is really comfortable and you can finish this with one sitting. But I suggest you a little slow read to enjoy this melancholy overtone, because it is one of the most hearty and emotional retelling. 
Also the author avoided the dramatic exaggeration of original Ramayana, and made it more realistic. 

The biggest difference from the valmiki Ramayana was the link between Seeta and Ravana-Mandodari. I will not tell it because I don't want to spoil the story line. The author took reference from the Gunabhadara's Uttara Purana & Sanghadasa's Jaina Ramayana where there was the link. The author also masterfully matched all the loops at last and made a decent finish. 

So full of so much quality, this modern take on of Ramayana is really hearty, soulful, emotional and grand. This retelling can also be described as a feminist milestone by a female debut author where we can see the life of a woman full of hazard and mishaps in the disguise of a mythological character.
A Must Read! 

OVARALL RATING: 5/5

Thanks to the author for this beautiful ARC.

I have added this review on Amazon India and Goodreads.

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Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. Loved your review. The premise sounds intriguing. If you like historical retelling, then would recommend two books- "The Palace of Illusions" and "Circe". Both are fab. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for your appreciation, will definitely read them. Have listened so much praise about Circe. 🙏😇

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