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Aruna Sharan first read and fell in love with the Mahabharata in the early 1970’s while staying at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi in South India, her spiritual home. She says: “Reading this magnificent epic had a powerful effect on me; it would not let me go. I read it over and over again over the years, in every version I could find; yet though I “felt” the grandeur and power of the story itself, I was inevitably disappointed in its execution. The single-volume Mahabharatas I read were either clumsily written; or they were reduced to the bare bones of the story and were thus bland and boring; or they neglected what to my mind were powerful scenes or characters – something always seemed wrong.”
And so, about 30 years ago, she began to write her own Mahabharata; as a hobby, as a labour of love, for her own satisfaction. Back then she didn’t have the slightest goal of ever publishing it. To her it was simply a magnificent story with a powerful spiritual message hidden between the lines, a story she needed to bring to life. She wrote it on and off over the decades. Sometimes she put it away for years as she dealt with the nuts and bolts of raising a family and making a living. “As I matured so did the story; with every rewrite I felt I had come to a deeper understanding of the characters and their motives, and of the underlying theme behind the epic. Finally, it’s ready to be born, to face the world.”
Aruna Sharan is a pen name of the HarperCollins novelist Sharon Maas of Guyana, author of Of Marriageable Age and two other novels.
on July 02, 2012 :
I really wanted to like this book, because I love the Mahabharata, the author professed to have a soft spot for Karna, and well, so do I! However, there are some mistakes that actually jarred me out of the story, and some major issues with characterizations, and well, some timing issues...
Some of the obvious mistakes are things such as the mixing up of the curses between Parasurama and the Brahman (c'mon, that's just lazy research), and some willful changes made by the author, such as not mentioning the armour that Karna was born with... which, to me, is extremely important in Karna's characterization. Especially when you consider the way he had to cut himself out of them, and also Karna's previous life! There is a *reason* that he had both the armour and the earrings, after all... I mean, if it was just the earrings, surely Indra wouldn't have needed to trick him out of it - Arjuna would've been able to kill him easily, so this author kind of created a plothole there which was totally not needed!
I was also kind of side-eyeing the Duryodhana characterization. He is a lot of things, but "whiny" isn't one of them. C'mon, he's the sort of guy who courageously went right ahead and did all sorts of evil things, so when I keep seeing that particular word in association with Duryodhana, it's a little... yeah. XD Also the Dritharashtra characterization was jarring. He wasn't just a helpless Duryodhana pawn. The blind king himself had more of a role in the evildoings against the Pandavas than is shown in this book. And if Duryodhana is shown as the only main villain - characterization is an authorial right, after all - perhaps he could have been shown as a stronger guy. Because here what's ended up happening is that the Pandavas are shown to be overwhelmingly on the positive side, and on the other side,well, a whiny villain surrounded by yes-men. O_O A trifle unbalanced.
Also, the dialogue was so very dramatic at times that I couldn't totally get into the story as I have done other versions. Less exclamation marks would've helped. :( A shade more understatement could've worked to draw the reader in a lot better. I mean, the events in the story are dramatic enough without the dialogue adding to it. >>
All in all, the Mahabharata is definitely one of the greatest stories ever told. The storytelling here though, leaves a bit to be desired.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)