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The Henna Artist: A Novel by Alka Joshi

The Henna Artist: A Novel (edition 2020)

by Alka Joshi (Author)

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19619100,903 (4.07)7
A talented henna artist for wealthy confidantes finds her efforts to control her own destiny in 1950s Jaipur threatened by the abusive husband she fled as a teenage girl.



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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Recommended by a friend who loves all things India. She didn't know that years ago, I stayed at the hotel that once was the Maharini's palace in Jaipur, which features in this story. It brought back a flood of memories of a trip I took with my mother to India, and how my brother met us and spread the land he so loved like a carpet beneath her feet. Pandemic read. ( )
  bookczuk | Sep 24, 2020 |
Hard to get through. ( )
  midkid88 | Aug 20, 2020 |
It sounded like an intriguing read: a woman escapes her abusive marriage at 17 (!) and moves to Jaipur to become a henna artist. She has wealthy and clients full of gossip that Lakshmi has to carefully navigate. Then her abuser of a husband appears, with an unknown sister in tow.

This was definitely a book that I could not understand had such hype. Initially it started of well with an intriguing look at Lakshimi's life but it very quickly and immediately went downhill. Lakshmi herself wasn't a very compelling character and I didn't find her greater story at all interesting.

I wasn't sure if it was me because I normally enjoy historical fiction and was definitely interested when I read that author Joshi had based this on her own mother's life. But reading through the reviews helped make it make a little more sense: that it seemed to be geared towards a Western audience, that some of the accuracy of the time period is questionable, etc.

Personally I would skip this one but maybe it was really me just being in the right frame of mind or it. A library borrow for me and that was for the best. ( )
  acciolibros | Aug 7, 2020 |
Lakshmi, the daughter of an alcoholic village schoolmaster, once had dreams of continuing her education, possibly even going to college to continue her study of art and literature, but life, hardship, and the customs of India set her on another path. At only fourteen, she was forced to accept an arranged marriage to a man she didn't love, a man who turned out to be abusive. The only grace was her mother-in-law, a healer who shared her knowledge of herbs and folk medicine with Lakshmi. After a few years, Lakshmi escapes, settling first in Agra, where she paints henna designs on the bodies of prostitutes, and then in Jaipur, where she sets up a more legitimate business among the well-to-do ladies, using her talents for original henna designs and mandalas. During her appointments, she also dispenses advice and sweet or savory treats infused with herbs to remedy whatever problems her clients might have from barrenness to arthritis. After several women credit her ministrations with long-wished for pregnancies, Lakshmi's is flourishing. Proud of her accomplishments, she decides to turn her talents matchmaking and to invest in building a home of her own. She hopes that once it is completed, she can invite her estranged parents to come and live with her. Although she has been regularly sending them letters and money, Lakshmi hasn't heard from them since she left.

Then, unexpectedly, the husband she feared would come after her arrives with a 13-year old girl in tow: Rashida, a sister she never knew existed. Their parents have both died, and although Rashida was never told about her older sister, she found one of Lakshmi's letters and knew where to find her. The young girl is at first thrilled to have found an older sister who appears to be doing so well, but Lakshmi is concerned that Rashida's village ways and outspokenness will create havoc in her polite, carefully crafted world. She tries to keep the girl busy with cooking, mixing henna, and other tasks but eventually begins taking her along to some of her appointments. One of the younger women who was schooled in England befriends Rashida, taking her on outings and inviting her to spend time at her home. Although she has some concerns, ultimately, Lakshmi is happy to have her sister--who has become surly and accuses her of using her as a house slave--out of her hair. Inevitably, tragedy strikes, and Lakshmi finds her world falling apart.

[The Henna Artist] develops a number of important themes: the persistence of the caste system and social customs in 1955 India, the importance of family, the resilience and creativity of women, the corrosive nature of deeply kept secrets, and more. Of course, the push-pull of the sibling relationship is at the heart of the novel as well. Lakshmi's new life has been built on her hard work and resourcefulness, but also on a complex bed of lies that continues to fester. When things start to unravel, how will she manage to rebuild her life and, just as importantly, her relationship with Rashida? ( )
  Cariola | Jul 25, 2020 |
I loved this book about a henna artist in the 1950s in India and the life of her family and the women she serviced with her designs and her medicinal herb treatments.
This book beautifully describes India and the troubles of the caste system, the poverty compared to the wealth, and how people judge others due to gossip. It is a book about strength and resilience, and about family.
#TheHennaArtist #AlkaJoshi ( )
  rmarcin | Jul 19, 2020 |
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A talented henna artist for wealthy confidantes finds her efforts to control her own destiny in 1950s Jaipur threatened by the abusive husband she fled as a teenage girl.

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