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Review: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Title: The Henna Artist

Author: Alka Joshi
Year published: 2020
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)India

SummaryEscaping 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.

Review: I have had this book on my shelves for a while so was really happy when one of my book groups chose it for this month's read.

I liked the cultural aspects of this novel: the role of henna in marital relations; what designs mean; and the relationship between the henna artist and the wealthier class of women. This last part was probably the most interesting, I liked how the henna artist had an unusual power over the women with means even though she was officially "below" them.

The story gets a little repetitive with lots of the story covering the artist's visits to the rich women and how she influences and helps them. While I was entertained in the start of the novel, it started to drag in the second half.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--India
  • Alphabet (Author)--J
  • Alphabet (Title)--H

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