“Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.”
The Henna Artist has been only reading list since it was published in March. I finally made the time to sit down to read it and I’m kicking myself for it taking me4 so long to pick it up.
“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.”
Before I started reading this book, I had a brief conversation with the author, Alka Joshi, in which she asked me to let her know who my favorite character from the story was once I was finished reading, In my mind, I thought ‘well, of course, it will be Lakshmi’ as the story is about her and what she overcomes.’ What I didn’t anticipate was that this story was full of some incredible women.
I loved Lakshmi because she was brave, driven, and brilliant. I admired Kanta for her determination to have a family and her unwavering support of Lakshmi and Radha. I also loved Maharaja because, despite her ranking within the community, she was still able to see those that were deemed to be “beneath her “ through the caste system. Finally, even though the reader was never formally introduced to Lakshmi’s Saas, I loved her for all that she taught her taught in-law.
This is also the first time that I’ve read a book where the author-supplied her readers with a glossary to allow for a better understanding of the Hindi, French, and English words featured in the story. Joshi also provided the reader with a detailed list of the characters who appear within the book. It was the combination of these two incredibly thought out additions that truly made The Henna Artist shine.
Finally, when you do read this book (because you should) I highly encourage you to read the author’s Acknowledgements, The Story on Henna, and The Caste System in India; all three of the sections can be found at the end of the novel.
The Henna Artist receives five-beautiful-stars and I will be recommending it to everyone!