The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
I am so late in reading this heavily popular read! It’s nuts. This book was one of the most popular books all over the book world since its release in March of 2020. It’s a NY Times bestseller, an L.A Times best seller, a USA best seller, and it was even picked for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for May 2020. Also, this book is soon going to a TV series starring the beautiful Freida Pinto! SO many reasons to read this book right? I’m so glad that I finally did - read on for more on this beautiful read. How gorgeous is the cover btw?!
The setting for this book is Jaipur & Rajasthan, India.
We follow 17 year old Lakshi as she escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. She becomes the most sought after henna artist and confidant for all of the wealthy and upper class women of Jaipur. She is trusted with all of the secrets of the wealthy, but can never reveal any of her own.
Lakshmi becomes well known for her trust, her sage advice and her original designs, but she must treat very carefully to avoid jealous gossips that could ruin her livelihood and well built reputation. As she pursues her independent life, she is taken by surprise when her estranged husband shows up many years later after tracking her down with a high spirited young girl in tow - who turns out to be a sister that Lakshmi never knew existed. Her precarious and well tended life may now be at risk, but through it all, she perseveres and applies her talents and lifts up those who surround her.
The Henna Artist is a portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern.
I actually had listened to the audiobook for The Henna Artist and it was absolutely brilliant. I adored it immensely and would highly recommend the audiobook for this if you’re into audiobooks.
What a full, lush and wonderful story this was. Cultural and historical fiction at it’s best. From the very first page you are completely transported into a hot, bright and rich world in Jaipur, India. I absolutely adored the setting of this book. It’s seriously made me want to travel there so much now!
We follow Lakshmi from quite a young age of 17 years old and we basically shadow her in her everyday life in Jaipur. Lakshmi was quite an interesting character, she was definitely independent, very resourceful, intelligent, talented and I absolutely loved all of these qualities about her. At times though, she was quite naive and a tad annoying just in my opinion, but overall I did actually like her strong presence and character. We get the entire story from her perspective as she leaves her abusive husband and basically makes a living in Jaipur as being one of the most sought after henna artists in all of Jaipur. It’s pretty impressive what she has been through in this book. Immense hardships. What a brilliant story and setting right?!
I loved every bit of this story from the beginning to the very end. It just felt really complete and was written exquisitely. I loved all of the characters that surrounded Lakshmi, each one played quite an important role in the book and shaped the outcome of the story as well. I loved that the author touched on specific subjects such as different caste systems in India, the wealthy and the poor, the lives from both perspectives, I thought it was brilliant.
This book had quite a plethora of characters, at times I did feel a little confused as to who was who, especially in the beginning, but actually, towards the end, and having listened to the audiobook, I was completely aware of who each person was. The character development was written expertly well. I can definitely see why this book would translate well as a TV show. There’s just so much to work with. It’s a multilayered book that can show you completely different perspectives of all of the amazing characters of this book. I also like the time period chosen for this story. Quite an interesting time in India and it played very well with the story itself.
Alka Joshi also mentions quite a lot of subject areas in the book. She delves into western medicine and herbal medicine, social class systems in India, men and women’s roles during this time, this book offers you quite a lot. The Henna Artist is a story about perseverance, womanhood, finding independence and taking control of your life, social class and caste systems, family, cultural traditions, and much more. It felt to me, like a complete book. I loved the writing of it, it was concise and to the point. It was an engrossing and interesting story for sure. I would recommend this for Historical Fiction and women’s fiction lovers. You learn quite a bit as well especially if you’re not familiar with Indian culture during this time period.
For this song pick, I knew that I wanted a song about being in control of your own life and body, I also knew I wanted a song from around the 1950s/60s. I went for the ultimate independent and feminist song. A true classic. 'You Don't Own Me' by Leslie Gore. A totally timeless song and I feel that the lyrics are perfect for Lakshmi and everything she goes through.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Pages: 384 Pages
Publisher: Mira Books
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