REVIEW: ‘THE HENNA ARTIST’ BY ALKA JOSHI

Lakshmi’s slowly built life of freedom and success comes to a halt as her long abandoned, abusive husband finds her after more than a decade, along with Radha, a sister Lakshmi never knew she had, in tow.

Alka Joshi debut novel ‘The Henna Artist’ published by Harper Collins on March 3, 2020 has been New York Times bestseller and has been chosen as one of the best books of 2020 by multiple platforms and communities.

Lakshmi reached the 1950s pink city of Jaipur at the cusp of adulthood with the extensive knowledge of the healing properties of herbs from her mother-in-law, the extraordinary art of henna from Agra’s nautch girls and a dream of Independence. After years of hardwork and silently nodding at her ladies’ secret gossips, Lakshmi has earned the tittle of the best henna artist, with the silkiest henna paste and her unique designs capable of weilding magic, and the most trusting confederate of the wealthy influential ladies of Jaipur.

But with the sudden arrival of Radha and the even more sudden transformation: from bare feet to lace frocks, from the village well to English cinema- Lakshmi’s own secrets start to unravel one by one. As her notebook of appointments becomes emptier, and the credit becomes more than debit, her slowly built world threatens to come crumbling down.

‘The Henna Artist’ paints a very real picture of the post independence India, complete with it’s plague of caste systems and discriminations. But the story definitely revolves around Lakhmi, real with all her dreams and imperfections, constantly struggling and growing through the thorns of patriarchy.

The vivid city, compelling plot and a stark and real society has resulted in very mature characters, filling us with a real treat of a novel.

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