Publisher: MIRA / Harlequin Audio
Release Date: March 03, 2020
Genre: Adult Fiction / Historical Fiction
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
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.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is a vivid look at life in India in the 50s and one woman’s search for independence, and it has got to be one of the most stunning debuts I have ever read. This book is so rich in culture and imagery that I felt like I was there the entire time. The characters also felt entirely realistic, and I was a huge fan of Lakshmi and so many of the women in the novel. I was so sad when the book ended so I was incredibly excited to learn there are going to be two more books after this, AND that The Henna Artist is going to be a TV series.
I ended up listening to the audio of the whole book and Sneha Mathan did such a stunning job narrating. Anyone who can narrate so many characters plus a bird so well is clearly going at the top of my list for narrators. While I do highly recommend doing the audio of The Henna Artist, I would also recommend having a copy of the book on hand as well. There are a lot of characters as well as a lot of terms I wasn’t familiar with, so it was helpful to have a physical copy as it has a glossary of both terms and characters that appear in the book.
The core of this book is about women, and I think there was so much to relate to as a woman, even if you aren’t Indian. Plus there seemed to be a lot of similarities to other cultures as well, so this is a book you can read no matter where you are from. It was so enlightening to me, especially since I don’t know a whole lot about India or the culture there. The Henna Artist is so complex and engrossing that I will definitely be recommending it to everyone, but especially those who are fans of historical and literary fiction. It was such a delight to read and I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel!