The Henna Artist – Alka Joshi

Synopsis

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

My Review

Thank you @harlequinaus @harpercollinsaustralia for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

The Henna Artist is a well crafted and powerful novel. Set in Jaipur, the magnificent pink city, it follows the story of Lakshmi and her sister, Radha.

The Henna Artist explores a side of India that I have not personally experienced; a world of status concerns in which people are treated differently due to the caste system. I love reading stories set in India and I particularly enjoyed the colourful descriptions of the place and especially the vivid descriptions of henna art. The intricate designs, how the images influence the wearer and meanings behind each are very interesting. I have since been inspired to explore these images more and am fascinated. Alka Joshi’s exploration of henna art throughout the novel is beautiful and provides insight into the emotional stories of the characters too.

Lakshmi is a strong female character who moves away from a violent husband to start her own life. She works as a henna artist for some of Jaipur’s most wealthy women. As she works, she is saving for her own home. The characters are well developed and their stories are intriguing. The Henna Artist questions what is truly important in life and deals with sensitive topics, including the lack of support of single unwed mothers in society and the expectations of women in India.

I enjoyed The Henna Artist and found it a very emotional read. The relationship between Radha and Lakshmi is tumultuous and realistic. The Henna Artist is a novel that will pull at the heart strings. Alka Joshi has written a compelling novel. I took my time to enjoy it, appreciating every page.

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