A fascinating glimpse into India in the 1950s, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi captivates readers right from the start. The story centers on 17-year-old Lakshmi, who has escaped an abusive marriage and landed in the vibrant city of Jaipur. There, she quickly becomes a sought-after henna artist and confidante to the wealthy, upper-class women who admire her dazzling designs and welcome her listening ear. And while Lakshmi keeps their secrets, she must carefully guard her own. Until one day, those secrets show up of their own accord…
A review in BookPage* details some of the most compelling elements of the book:
Rich in detail and bright with tastes and textures, The Henna Artist is a fabulous glimpse into Indian culture in the 1950s. You’ll notice certain remnants of British colonization, and you’ll see how Western culture permeates Jaipur. Throughout her first novel, Alka Joshi explores the complex relationships of women in India, offering an introduction into the caste system that separates and defines people, and comments on the often invisible yet deeply important labor that’s deemed “women’s work.”
Joshi’s prose is rhythmic and alluring, and her characters are multidimensional and alive. This is a novel of hope, ambition and healing.