The Henna Artist
Lakshmi Shastri has spent years carving out a life for herself as a henna artist after fleeing her abusive husband and backward rural village for the Rajasthan capital. Well-versed in apothecary and the miraculous properties of herbs, her services (the effects of which are far more than just aesthetic) are highly sought after by upper-caste women, and Lakshmi’s success brings her within inches from her, and her country’s, ultimate goal: total independence. That is, until the past she has so desperately tried to run from comes knocking at her door...

The Henna Artist Details

TitleThe Henna Artist
Author
ReleaseMar 3rd, 2020
PublisherMira
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, India, Adult

The Henna Artist Review

  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    I don't get the opportunity to travel much anymore so I kinda have to rely on books to take me to places I might not get the chance to ever visit. I've read a few fiction books with India as the setting and what first caught my interest about this one is it takes place in the 1950s. The author did a phenomenal job in making me feel like I was transported to this time and country and the main character, Lakshmi, is someone worth getting to know in my opinion. Very glad I got the chance to read I don't get the opportunity to travel much anymore so I kinda have to rely on books to take me to places I might not get the chance to ever visit. I've read a few fiction books with India as the setting and what first caught my interest about this one is it takes place in the 1950s. The author did a phenomenal job in making me feel like I was transported to this time and country and the main character, Lakshmi, is someone worth getting to know in my opinion. Very glad I got the chance to read this one.At the age of seventeen, Lakshmi escaped her abusive marriage and headed to the city of Jaipur. She's worked hard as a henna artist for quite a few years. She's developed quite the reputation among her wealthy clients with her artistry and has managed to scrimp and save enough money to own a home. Work still needs to be completed on the house and that means Lakshmi must keep on working to pay off her debts. Her husband tracks Lakshmi down and brings with him quite the surprise, Radha, a thirteen year old girl who is the sister Lakshmi never knew she had. The new and better life Lakshmi worked so hard for threatens to come crashing down with this new development.First of all, I admit I was a bit worried when I started the book and saw there was a section for the cast of characters. Usually that indicates there are going to be so many characters it can be confusing to the reader and therefore you need a cheat sheet. However, other than a few names here and there, I didn't even find myself flipping back and forth as it was pretty easy to keep everyone straight in my mind. On a related note, the glossary of terms in the back for different Indian words and phrases was pretty helpful. Within the story, italics were used for the different words that appeared in the glossary. Lakshmi is one of the more stronger female characters I have come across in my reading recently. I thought she was a character who was very easy to root for and I felt bad when it seemed like so many things beyond her control were causing problems in her life. I thought Lakshmi's non-henna work enhanced an already rich and layered story. There's so much here for a book club discussion as you have such things as the different social classes in India, differences in Western medicine and herbal remedies, women's roles in society in 1950s India, etc.. I really hope this book finds a large audience as I found it to be a worthwhile read. I won a free advance copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.
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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    I love it when a book introduces me to something new and teaches me something. I had never given any thought to the people who create the elaborate henna drawings on the hands and feet of an Indian woman for ceremonial occasions. This book is set in 1950s India and introduced me to Lakshmi who was a henna artist. Lakshmi had been forced to marry when she was 15. Her mother in law was a healer and she taught Lakshmi about folk cures and the properties of various herbs. After Lakshmi left her I love it when a book introduces me to something new and teaches me something. I had never given any thought to the people who create the elaborate henna drawings on the hands and feet of an Indian woman for ceremonial occasions. This book is set in 1950s India and introduced me to Lakshmi who was a henna artist. Lakshmi had been forced to marry when she was 15. Her mother in law was a healer and she taught Lakshmi about folk cures and the properties of various herbs. After Lakshmi left her husband she established herself as a henna artist for wealthy women. The job included much more than painting, she was also part therapist/part masseuse and she provided herbal remedies including one that caused abortions. She was an independent woman who managed to save enough money to build her own house, until her younger sister appeared on her doorstep and changed both of their lives. The details of the lives of these women, and the societal restrictions that they faced, were fascinating. The writing was very clear and contained. I was pleased to find that it did not have an obligatory romance. This is the author’s first book and I’d be happy to read her next one. 4.5 stars
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  • Berit☀️✨
    January 1, 1970
    Alka Joshi brings 1950s India to life with her lush and vivid writing. If you are someone like me who enjoys learning about other cultures and traveling to places you might never go, this is a cant miss. The interesting well drawn characters and the captivating storytelling completely drew me into this clever tale. Sneha Mathan masterfully narrated this audiobook, really bringing a voice and an additional layer to this incredible story. With a book like this it is nice to have the audiobook Alka Joshi brings 1950s India to life with her lush and vivid writing. If you are someone like me who enjoys learning about other cultures and traveling to places you might never go, this is a can’t miss. The interesting well drawn characters and the captivating storytelling completely drew me into this clever tale. Sneha Mathan masterfully narrated this audiobook, really bringing a voice and an additional layer to this incredible story. With a book like this it is nice to have the audiobook because then you know how things are pronounced, however you don’t always know how things are spelled. There is a PDF that accompanies the audiobook that includes a list of the characters and a glossary. This made me a little nervous that there needed to be a character list, but I have to say I never needed to refer to it I never was confused. 1950s India 17-year-old Lakshmi escapes her abusive marriage and heads to Jaipur. In Jaipur Lakshmi establishes herself as a successful henna artist as well as a procurer of herbal remedies. She has even realize her dream of owning her own home, then her pass catches back up with her. Her estranged husband shows up with her 13-year-old sister Radha, A sister she did not even know she had. What ensues is a compelling tale of family, tradition, secrecy, revenge, and second chances. Loved this book! Lakshmi was such an easy character to get behind. She was so strong, so smart, and so deserving. Her sister Radha on the other hand really frustrated me, I had to remind myself that she was just a teenager at times. There were many other extremely well drawn secondary characters some who I loved and some who I did not. I also found the herbal medicine in this book super fascinating and I liked how they combined it with traditional medicine in the story. This is one of those books that gives you a lot to think about. Filled with colorful characters and beautifully told this is a story that I will not soon forget.This book in emojis: 🇮🇳 🖌 💰 🦜 🛺 🚂 🏔 🏥 *** Big thank you to Harlequin & Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
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  • Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    Got this as an ARC! Whoop whoop
  • eyes.2c
    January 1, 1970
    Rich Indian novel!I found the background to this novel set in 1950's Jaipur fascinating. I knew nothing about henna work, well a few vague suppositions, but I was totally engaged by the art Lakshmi practised. I became immersed in her culture. I marvelled at how Lakshmi included henna motifs from other people she'd met, telling their stories. I was totally present as she combined her seemingly magical talent with traditional herbal medicine and her art. The Mindfulness of henna application comes Rich Indian novel!I found the background to this novel set in 1950's Jaipur fascinating. I knew nothing about henna work, well a few vague suppositions, but I was totally engaged by the art Lakshmi practised. I became immersed in her culture. I marvelled at how Lakshmi included henna motifs from other people she'd met, telling their stories. I was totally present as she combined her seemingly magical talent with traditional herbal medicine and her art. The Mindfulness of henna application comes to my thoughts. Lakshmi had fled an abusive husband. The shame brought upon her family meant she'd been repudiated by her parents. She didn't even know she had a younger sister. Imagine Lakshmi's shock when her husband Hari turns up with this unknown sister, Radha, a young girl of thirteen. Over the years Lakshmi has built up her business and is nearing her goal of building and owning her own house. Her wonderful assistant, a cocky, shrewd, street kid Malik is a stand out gem and a strong secondary character.Now this sister, this puzzling girl who is stubborn and strong willed, who has been used to fending for herself and retaliating when she was scorned has thrown her plans askew. The changes wrought to Lakshmi's life are catastrophic to her peace of mind, although eventually enlightening. I will confess my feelings about sister Radha are mixed, as are Lakshmi's. Lakshmi has built up a clientele of high class, wealthy ladies and is on the verge of bringing off a financial coup, taking her services beyond that of henna artist to marriage broker and more, including coveted access to the palace. Radha threatens this.Lakshmi had learned from Hari's mother to mix traditional herbal concoctions to benefit her ladies in healing and well being. The darker side is that she also mixes herbs for those very same ladies' husbands and sons to give to their mistresses and even female household servants if necessary. Lakshmi is building towards her goals from mixed sources. In the end those Lakshmi trusted are but paper cutouts and the goals she had, turn to ash. Gossip and vengeance take hold.I was absorbed by this look at a culture unknown. The realization that though we may do things differently there is still love, jealousy, revenge and redemption for all.I was shocked by the sordidness of the scene within Lakshmi builder's home and as repulsed by that situation as she, even as she recognizes the builder's wife as a fellow traveller.This is such a rich and colorful novel--in culture and characters. I was drawn by so many aspects that were startling and unexpected, woven seamlessly throughout. Along with Lakshmi I was alternately pleased, puzzled, hurt and shattered. Truly, Lakshmi's moment of triumph, and reconciliation to the truth of her gift is both redemptive and uplifting.An amazing read!A Harlequin - Mira ARC via NetGalley
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  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    What an amazing trip to India and the life of a local Henna Artist. We quickly learn that there is way more to it than her henna designs.
  • Shazia Khan
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review. Receiving diverse books from publishers makes my heart soar.I was six years old the first time I had Mehndi (henna) placed on my hands. I was in Pakistan at the time with my parents, and we were watching a henna ceremony from the lobby in our hotel. I was mesmerized by all the dancing, singing and by all the girls running around with henna on their hands. I begged my mother to go ask them if I Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review. Receiving diverse books from publishers makes my heart soar.I was six years old the first time I had Mehndi (henna) placed on my hands. I was in Pakistan at the time with my parents, and we were watching a henna ceremony from the lobby in our hotel. I was mesmerized by all the dancing, singing and by all the girls running around with henna on their hands. I begged my mother to go ask them if I could get henna done on my hands as well. It was the henna artist that caught my eye and saw me pulling my mom towards the ceremony. She walked up to us holding her tube of henna and asked me if I wanted a design on my hand. My mom loves to tell me how I let go of her hand and followed the henna artist into the ceremony as if I was an invited guest. While I don’t remember the exact design she drew, I do remember being fascinated by the end product. My mom’s favourite part of the story is how I created such a scene because I was so excited that the bride herself invited us to the wedding two days later.Reading “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi reminded me of this memory. I have loved Henna from that moment twenty-six years ago. I knew I needed this book in my life just by reading the synopsis. This story transported me to 1950’s India as we follow a woman’s quest at an independent life through her art.Synopsis:Lakshmi was seventeen-years-old when she escaped an abusive marriage and set off on a journey alone from her 1950’s village to the city of Jaipur. She begins a decade long career of adorning wealthy women’s hands and bodies with henna. Lakshmi becomes well known for her beautiful designs and slowly begins building towards her dream of an independent life. Everything comes crashing down when her husband tracks her down with a thirteen-year-old sister she never knew she had. The story follows Lakshmi and Radha as they both navigate their new relationship.This was such an incredible book to read around International Women’s Day. Lakshmi was a character I rooted for from the very beginning, even when she was making choices that I did not agree with. The author made her so human, which means she was flawed but also living under the weight of a painful past, a difficult present and often times what felt like an impossible future. Her dream of being financially independent and living in a house built from her hard work was admirable and it was a dream that felt so fragile, like a house of cards that a small gust of wind could topple over. “The Gossip-Eaters” as the author calls them had such a huge role in the book. I think the author did a phenomenal job in portraying how people’s words could have a lasting effect on a person’s life. The author also did a great job in depicting the hardships of different caste members, of the poor and unmarried women at the time.The Characters:The characters felt so real to me. The author did a great job in humanizing many of the characters, including the ones I wanted to hate. She excelled at showing the driving factors that can lead people to make bad decisions, which left me feeling sympathy for many of them. Lakshmi and Radha’s relationship was both beautiful and complex. These sisters really grew together, and while there were times when I felt just as protective and frustrated with Radha, I began to understand her and how vulnerable those teenage years can be. Malik was by far one of my favourite characters. I smiled every time he called Lakshmi “Auntie-boss”.Overall this book is immersed in culture, history and female empowerment. I always talk about how diversity is important in the publishing world and I’m really happy that books like these are being published. There is so much you can learn from this book and I have a feeling you will end up wanting to get henna done right after. I know I’m thinking about it right now.
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  • RoseMary Achey
    January 1, 1970
    People can change-this was one of the core concepts a reader is left after finishing this enjoyable book. The Henna Artist set during the late 1950s in India features several characters who grow and develop and this was utterly pleasurable to read. The main character is living and working as a respected and independent woman. Rare for a woman in the 1950s in India a country still ruled by the strict social mores and class system. She has worked for over a decade establishing a highly successful People can change-this was one of the core concepts a reader is left after finishing this enjoyable book. The Henna Artist set during the late 1950’s in India features several characters who grow and develop and this was utterly pleasurable to read. The main character is living and working as a respected and independent woman. Rare for a woman in the 1950’s in India a country still ruled by the strict social mores and class system. She has worked for over a decade establishing a highly successful business as a henna artist and herbalist. Her well controlled world is suddenly upended when the abusive husband she ran from 13 years ago arrives with her sister in tow. A sister she never knew existed. This book was well researched and will completely encapsulate you with the sights and sounds of the time and place. You will cheer for these flawed characters on their journey to greater self-awareness.
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  • KarnagesMistress
    January 1, 1970
    "Namaste! Bonjour! Welcome!" The story of The Henna Artist is like one of the titular character's designs, composed of intricately entwined characters, words, food (do not read this book when hungry unless you have ready access to good Indian food), and images. The underlying story itself is compelling enough: Lakshmi is a woman attempting to make her way in a rigid world. Even if you don't always agree with her, you will understand why Lakshmi makes the choices she does, and root for her to "Namaste! Bonjour! Welcome!" The story of The Henna Artist is like one of the titular character's designs, composed of intricately entwined characters, words, food (do not read this book when hungry unless you have ready access to good Indian food), and images. The underlying story itself is compelling enough: Lakshmi is a woman attempting to make her way in a rigid world. Even if you don't always agree with her, you will understand why Lakshmi makes the choices she does, and root for her to succeed. Then, you add in the details of life in 1950s India, from the conventions, the clothes, the food. The supporting characters are well-developed themselves; any one could easily spawn a companion novel. The entire experience was a delight and pleasure to read, also sending me fleeing to my local Indian restaurant as fast as possible. (Our kind author does helpfully include two recipes in the back of the book.) Overall, I just found it such a treat, and highly recommend it to any woman who would like to learn more about India, or enjoys historical fiction or strong, relatable female characters. This book will also satisfy the 2020 Watauga County Public Library Reading Challenge categories: A Book by an Author Who Is New to You; A Book with More than 300 pages; A Book Published in 2020; A Historical Novel. I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an advance reader's edition.
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  • Stefanie
    January 1, 1970
    Meet Lakshmi, a woman trying to start her life over in an escape from her abusive husband not knowing how greatly it hurt and disgraced her family.In India she is the Henna artist. The one all the women want, to give them their unique henna designs. Lakshmis luxurious, one-of-a-kind designs are treasured among the women of Jaipur, India.The Henna Artist was a stunning tale of life in India for Lakshmi. Her highs and her lows, an immersive dive into the culture that leaves your mind reeling in a Meet Lakshmi, a woman trying to start her life over in an escape from her abusive husband not knowing how greatly it hurt and disgraced her family.In India she is the Henna artist. The one all the women want, to give them their unique henna designs. Lakshmi’s luxurious, one-of-a-kind designs are treasured among the women of Jaipur, India.The Henna Artist was a stunning tale of life in India for Lakshmi. Her highs and her lows, an immersive dive into the culture that leaves your mind reeling in a need to know more, need to understand more, mindset.Lakshmi was a strong woman and I admired her character, especially when faced with difficult challenges and obstacles in her way to a better life.I enjoyed reading and learning more about the culture in India as well... some of which was very difficult to read. It’s heartbreaking the way these women are treated and how they treat themselves.The book was slow moving in sections, losing traction in a few places, but eventually picking back up again. I personally loved the ending and thought the book was wrapped up beautifully.If you are a fan of A Woman is No Man or The Storyteller’s Secret, then I highly recommend this one for you! Another beautiful book detailing a unique, vibrant, and at times heart-breaking culture.TW: Physical Abuse, Infidelity, Abortion & Miscarriage (at times heavily detailed).*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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  • Greyland Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    4.25 starsARC provided by Harlequin-MIRA through NetGalley for honest reviewI enjoyed this book so much! I'll either love or dislike a historical book in the first pages and this one just in trapped me with its story telling. Loved learning more about Indian culture, especially after such big events in history with winning its independence from the British. This book didn't turn out how I thought it was going to be but, I still entranced with following Lakshmi's story and her battling cultural 4.25 starsARC provided by Harlequin-MIRA through NetGalley for honest reviewI enjoyed this book so much! I'll either love or dislike a historical book in the first pages and this one just in trapped me with its story telling. Loved learning more about Indian culture, especially after such big events in history with winning its independence from the British. This book didn't turn out how I thought it was going to be but, I still entranced with following Lakshmi's story and her battling cultural norms and with facing hardships. The only thing that I wished this book had is little bit more romance but that's just my personal opinion.
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  • Fanna
    January 1, 1970
    March 13, 2020: 1950s India? This can be such a great recommendation for the South-Asian Reading Challenge!
  • Minerva Spencer
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of THE HENNA ARTIST, which shot right to the top of my top 10 favorite books of 2019. Holy WOW this book is amazing! I found myself catapulted into an entirely different world right from the first pages. The book is written in a thoughtful, nuanced, complex fashion that is much like Lakshmi's intricate and enduring henna designs--and Lakshmi, herself. Joshi brings the north-central city of Jaipur to life with her elegant, direct prose. The time is I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of THE HENNA ARTIST, which shot right to the top of my top 10 favorite books of 2019. Holy WOW this book is amazing! I found myself catapulted into an entirely different world right from the first pages. The book is written in a thoughtful, nuanced, complex fashion that is much like Lakshmi's intricate and enduring henna designs--and Lakshmi, herself. Joshi brings the north-central city of Jaipur to life with her elegant, direct prose. The time is only a few years after Indian Independence and the massive country is undergoing the inevitable shifts and growing pains that come with such change. Lakshmi's own existence is about to undergo an upheaval of a more personal nature.This book is just fascinating and 1950s India is a time and place I knew nothing about. I don't recall the last time I've learned so much--so pleasurably--while reading a work of fiction. Joshi has a real talent for educating and informing her reader without lecturing or preaching and I found my knowledge growing subtly with each page and new character. Just a walk down the streets of the city was an adventure in learning. I think this book will appeal to anyone who demands rich characterization and vibrant settings in their fiction.
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  • Belinda M
    January 1, 1970
    I dont know that I can come up with sufficient enough words to describe how beautiful and enthralling THE HENNA ARTIST is. Ive simply fallen in love with it and its definitely one of my favourites of the year. I don’t know that I can come up with sufficient enough words to describe how beautiful and enthralling THE HENNA ARTIST is. I’ve simply fallen in love with it and it’s definitely one of my favourites of the year.
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  • Wendy Morris
    January 1, 1970
    We read The Henna Artist for our monthly bookclub and ALL of us really enjoyed the book.It offers a great deal of insight into the lives of Indian women of different backgrounds. The book is written to depict the times of the 1950's when the Caste system was still very much a cultural part of the country. The book deals with the fate of one woman in particular, but those who surround her become a part of the whole picture and story. I highly recommend reading this if you want to see into the We read The Henna Artist for our monthly bookclub and ALL of us really enjoyed the book.It offers a great deal of insight into the lives of Indian women of different backgrounds. The book is written to depict the times of the 1950's when the Caste system was still very much a cultural part of the country. The book deals with the fate of one woman in particular, but those who surround her become a part of the whole picture and story. I highly recommend reading this if you want to see into the lives of these women, society and not only the lifestyle, but the spirituality of what India felt like then.
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  • Laura McNeal
    January 1, 1970
    I confess that I know the author, and that I wholeheartedly love books set in the subcontinent, especially books set in the past (1955-1956, in this case) and that if its a book set in India in 1955 and the narrator spends her days drawing with a henna reed and grinding cardamom seeds and rose petals I am half-seduced already, but all of these things could make me hard to please, too, and I found this book delicious. There is something elemental and mythic about Lakshmi and her knowledge of I confess that I know the author, and that I wholeheartedly love books set in the subcontinent, especially books set in the past (1955-1956, in this case) and that if it’s a book set in India in 1955 and the narrator spends her days drawing with a henna reed and grinding cardamom seeds and rose petals I am half-seduced already, but all of these things could make me hard to please, too, and I found this book delicious. There is something elemental and mythic about Lakshmi and her knowledge of spices, roots, oils, and barks that drew me into the kind of world I gladly lived in when reading fairy tales as a child, a place inhabited by powerful queens, talking birds, magical drinks, orphans, sad princesses, clever servants, and dangerous poisons. I am in awe of Alka’s timeless storytelling and also a little jealous of the character who winds up with the talking bird. “Namaste!” as he says. “Bonjour! Welcome!”
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  • Jasmyn
    January 1, 1970
    Lakshmi ran away from her village life with an abusive husband to find a way to make it on her own. This is a difficult task in 1950s India. As she makes her way up through the society, making sure to always follow the rules and know her place, pleasing her ladies with every visit, and making her henna designs seem like magical cures. All the time, saving money to build her own house.But when Lakshmis sister, the one she didnt know existed, shows up with the husband Lakshmi ran away from 13 Lakshmi ran away from her village life with an abusive husband to find a way to make it on her own. This is a difficult task in 1950s India. As she makes her way up through the society, making sure to always follow the rules and know her place, pleasing her “ladies” with every visit, and making her henna designs seem like magical cures. All the time, saving money to build her own house.But when Lakshmi’s sister, the one she didn’t know existed, shows up with the husband Lakshmi ran away from 13 years ago, things slowly begin to fall apart. As she tries to navigate the tricky social structures without missing a step, the worst happens, and she finds herself having to decide what family really means and how to best help them.Lakshmi’s relationship with her sister, as well as the errand boy that turns out to be far more important than you think at first, was well written. They were incredibly different people, and yet they were very similar as well. As with many families, their relationship isn’t all roses, but you could see how Lakshmi was trying so hard to do what was right and give her sister all the opportunities that could possibly have. One of the ways Lakshmi makes extra money is with herbal remedies, one which is used to make sure women who don’t want to be mothers (or can’t afford to be mothers) don’t have to be. Many people around her frown on this practice and often shunned her other natural remedies in favor of modern techniques and medicines. This cultural difference between the city and the villages really played a role as Lakshmi’s character developed and she navigated the world around her.The Henna Artist was a beautifully written story that immersed me in an unfamiliar culture, and I loved every second of it. The story unfolds in a way that isn’t all excitement and suspense but peppered with moments that stood out in my mind as I read through it. I highly recommend this book.**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
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  • gwendalyn _books_
    January 1, 1970
    This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi writes a thought provoking, emotional novel. Alka Joshi has meticulously brought the rich Indian culture and landscape literary to life within these vibrant books pages. Joshi brings the northern central city of Jaipur completely to life with her elegantly written prose. In this captivating historical fiction This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi writes a thought provoking, emotional novel. Alka Joshi has meticulously brought the rich Indian culture and landscape literary to life within these vibrant books pages. Joshi brings the northern central city of Jaipur completely to life with her elegantly written prose. In this captivating historical fiction takes place a few years after Indian Independence. In the 1950’s India as a whole is undergoing an extensive climatic challenge, with conflict between modern and traditional thinkers. To epic divisons of classes. The main protagonist, Lakshmi is known for her exquisite henna designs and makes her living by being a henna artist to the women in the village. She also is familiar with certain herbal remedies, a very lucrative secret side business providing women with a way to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. Lakshmi has escaped an abusive husband and is cautious in keeping her name clear of any gossip. She ultimately longs for a home of her own, and with her wealthy clientele she just might have it. until a young sister she never knew she had shows up in town with her ex-husband. Lakshmi’s life is thrown into upheaval and her hard won business threatened, as she struggles to incorporate her sister into her carefully balanced life could threaten her dreams. I was completely immersed in Lakshmi's life and her struggles as tries to raise herself up become a woman of independence.The Henna Artist is a brilliant captivating atmospheric detailed first novel. I would recommend this thought-provoking novel for readers who enjoy Historical Fiction.
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  • Karissa
    January 1, 1970
    Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I got through the Amazon Vine program to review.Story (4/5): Lakshmi fled her home town to escape an abusive marriage and ended up in the city of Jaipur working as a successful henna artist, with a secret side business providing women with a way to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. As Lakshmis business thrives, her dream of owning her own home is almost a reality...until a young sister she never knew she had shows up in town with her ex-husband. Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I got through the Amazon Vine program to review.Story (4/5): Lakshmi fled her home town to escape an abusive marriage and ended up in the city of Jaipur working as a successful henna artist, with a secret side business providing women with a way to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. As Lakshmi’s business thrives, her dream of owning her own home is almost a reality...until a young sister she never knew she had shows up in town with her ex-husband. Lakshmi’s life is thrown into upheaval and her hard won business threatened, as she struggles to incorporate her sister into her carefully balanced life.I really loved this story, it’s incredibly engaging. I read this in two sittings and could not put it down. I loved all the Indian culture and herblore and loved watching Laksmhi try to navigate to the intricate politics of the high castes in Jaipur. It was just such a unique and engaging historical fiction story. Characters (5/5): I loved all of the characters in this book. They are realistic and sometimes make poor decisions but somehow I still sympathized with them and was drawn into their story. Even the side characters are really well done and really come alive, the characters are what really make this story special. Setting (5/5): The setting is the other part of this book that made the story absolutely enchanting. Set in India in the mid 1950’s it was sooo interesting to see how the culture in this region was changing. There’s a huge Western influence but also a lot of unique traditions, culture, and medicines that are a critical part of daily life in Jaipur. I never knew henna actually had a medicinal purpose and really enjoyed all I learned in this unique setting.Writing Style (5/5): This book was incredibly engaging and easy to read. The writing flows beautifully and the description is detailed and really pulls you into the story. I was absolutely enchanted by this book and couldn’t put it down.Summary (5/5): Overall I really loved this book, it was very different from what I normally read, but I could not put it down. The culture, the history, and the day-to-day lives of these characters were perfectly blended to make this into a story that was completely engrossing and engaging. I would recommend to those who like reading historical fiction about strong women, who are interested in learning more about traditional India culture, or who just find historical fiction set in non-US settings intriguing.
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  • Stiina
    January 1, 1970
    I have been anxiously awaiting this book for months, because one of my henna artist friends posted about it when she did an event with Alka in California. I have loved following Alka on Instagram and learning more about her inspirations! I ordered the book as a pre-order and when it came in the mail last week I read it all in one day. What a engaging journey of hard work, skill, secrets, deception, frustration, shame, love, and luck! As a henna artist myself I loved being able to picture I have been anxiously awaiting this book for months, because one of my henna artist friends posted about it when she did an event with Alka in California. I have loved following Alka on Instagram and learning more about her inspirations! I ordered the book as a pre-order and when it came in the mail last week I read it all in one day. What a engaging journey of hard work, skill, secrets, deception, frustration, shame, love, and luck! As a henna artist myself I loved being able to picture Lakshimi drawing with the reeds and was transported to Jaipur through the vivid descriptions of smells, sounds, and feelings of drawing with henna.I especially loved one passage about how Lakshimi found peace in the designs and details around her: "I could lose myself - drawing the pattern of the milkmaid's chunni or the tiny feathers of a myna bird. It calmed me...concentrating on details, like the ladybug crawling up my arm or the paisley pattern of my sari, and ignoring everything else, crowded out anxiety, pain and worry."This shows intimate knowledge of an artist's brain and I love the way Alka weaves this tale for us to enjoy. You can lose yourself in the story, like losing yourself in the details of a gorgeous pallu.Thank you for the story Alka. 💕 Can't wait to meet you in Saskatoon when you come for your book tour!!
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  • Keren Krinick
    January 1, 1970
    The Henna Artist is an EXCELLENT book! Set in India, in the 1950's, Lakshmi is a strong, talented, clever woman, making a name for herself under complicated circumstances. It all changes when her sister ("Bad Luck Girl"), arrives at her home. This story is incredible. Full of twists in the plot, ingenious problem solving skills, and turbulent sisterly bonds. Thank you NetGalley, to the author and publisher for this e-reader copy for review. All opinions are my own.
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  • Cassie Luellman
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully crafted historical fiction set in post independence India. The author did an amazing job of bringing this time and place to life. The Henna Artist is really a book about womens rights, especially our reproductive rights. This book might be set in the 1950s but it feels immensely relevant to today.*Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is a beautifully crafted historical fiction set in post independence India. The author did an amazing job of bringing this time and place to life. The Henna Artist is really a book about women’s rights, especially our reproductive rights. This book might be set in the 1950’s but it feels immensely relevant to today.*Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I love reading stories that take place in India. This book did not disappoint. Loved the descriptions of The Pink City-Jaipur and the food. Very atmospheric. Thank you Bookbrowse and Mira books for an advanced readers copy. If you enjoy reading about India I highly recommend this book.
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  • Julie Besaw
    January 1, 1970
    I would actually rate this more toward 4.5 stars. Beautiful imagery and a story that kept me intrigued. Loved learning more about the culture of India. Overall, I would highly recommend!
  • AJ
    January 1, 1970
    From the first few pages of The Henna Artist, I at once knew that Alka Joshi had a superb talent for bringing a culture and landscape unknown to me fully alive.I sped through the pages eager to follow Lakshmi's efforts to become a woman of independence and self sufficiency.The Henna Artist is a brilliant first Novel from a writer whom I shall eagerly await further captivating stories.
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  • Leelynn (Sometimes Leelynn Reads) ❤
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing and Mira Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.That line gave me shivers. And it was the first lines in the first chapter, after a very heartbreaking prologue about a 13 year old girl Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing and Mira Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.That line gave me shivers. And it was the first lines in the first chapter, after a very heartbreaking prologue about a 13 year old girl that was basically shunned by her village because of the actions of her parents and mysterious sister that apparently disappeared out of nowhere…. but she didn’t even know she had an older sister? I was so freaking upset about that, but then I think about the time period that this book takes place in, and it kind of “makes sense” but it’s still not okay, you know what I mean?This book legit broke my heart just getting through it. I was so upset with what Lakshmi went through, not just as a child when she was left as an orphan but as an child bride with her husband. The abuse that she went through with him… I just think about how the concept of child brides aren’t illegal or enforced as illegal worldwide, and it just hurts to see an example of just how bad things can be for a girl in this situation that she doesn’t even have a choice in the matter.So while Lakshmi’s origins weren’t good at all, I was so freaking happy to see that she was able to escape this abuse and really make a life for herself that she was happy to have, and be proud of her progress despite the hardships that she had to endure. I just really wanted everything to go well for her after everything, but of course that’s not how books work so there had to be some conflict involved.I think that this book will really make you stop and reflect on the circumstances of your life as it stands currently, and show that there will be some times where you really have to pull everything together to take matters into your own hands, and learn how to heal from a past that was never meant to give you any form of success or love. It hurts, it will make you cry, it will make you angry, but those feelings will put things into perspective for you, and I think this will be a read that you won’t be able to stop thinking about.
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  • Alex Black
    January 1, 1970
    This whole book felt a little surface level. As much as I was curious about the story and where it would go, I never cared about the characters or felt invested in their lives. I always wanted more from the story and it felt liked it only scratched the surface of the emotions it could have had.My favorite part of the story was Lakshmi's job, her role as Henna artist and abortionist, and how she helped people. I loved seeing the insight into the lives of the rich and how her Henna helped them as This whole book felt a little surface level. As much as I was curious about the story and where it would go, I never cared about the characters or felt invested in their lives. I always wanted more from the story and it felt liked it only scratched the surface of the emotions it could have had.My favorite part of the story was Lakshmi's job, her role as Henna artist and abortionist, and how she helped people. I loved seeing the insight into the lives of the rich and how her Henna helped them as well as the poor and desperate and the different remedies she had. It was a fascinating look at Indian society in the 50s and the relationship between her and her clients was very well done.But the story seemed like it drifted away from that quite a bit. Instead of delving deeply into Lakshmi's career, her relationships, or her younger sister's troubles, it felt like the book hit on every point briefly, just long enough to explain the issue without giving time to explore it. I think part of that was because of how fast paced the book was. It covers a whole year in just under 350 pages, and there aren't any large time jumps. It just sort of skims the trials and tribulations of their lives. We don't actually get to see any of the characters' development, the easiest example being Radha, Lakshmi's younger sister. She shows up in the beginning as a village girl who's never left home, but at some point becomes confident in the city and rebellious against her sister. When did this happen? I have no idea. We didn't get to see any growth or change apart from Lakshmi giving her a list of instructions on how to act.I didn't dislike this book, but I really did find myself struggling to care. I felt so distant from these characters and their lives. Nothing about this book hit me emotionally. Even when things got difficult for these characters, as they nearly always do, it felt almost clinical.Overall, interesting story in theory and there was enough I enjoyed about the culture of the time to make it worthwhile, but it's not a book I'll be excitedly pushing on others. If it sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend picking it up, but I didn't think it was anything spectacular.
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  • Ink & Intentions
    January 1, 1970
    Just finished The Henna Artist and Im absolutely blown away. As someone who has non-existent experience with Indian culture and society, I found this book to be a truly transformative read. Each chapter was filled with stunning, sensory details that brought the story to life for me. The book is set in the aftermath of independence, in 1950's Jaipur. India as a nation is growing into her identity just as Lakshmi is growing into herself, reacting to a whole manner of interruptions to the life she Just finished The Henna Artist and I’m absolutely blown away. As someone who has non-existent experience with Indian culture and society, I found this book to be a truly transformative read. Each chapter was filled with stunning, sensory details that brought the story to life for me. The book is set in the aftermath of independence, in 1950's Jaipur. India as a nation is growing into her identity just as Lakshmi is growing into herself, reacting to a whole manner of interruptions to the life she had so carefully cultivated. We see how Lakshmi survives in the complicated social pitfalls and rules, as she works with each of her ladies, addressing their needs through henna and a myriad of other medicinal herbs, creams, and oils. She's created this life for herself, through traumatic circumstances, and has since learned the rules of engagement, as it were. But this life is not without its tests, in the form of an estranged husband, a little sister she knew nothing about, and her own dreams and ambitions. Lakshmi, time and time again, has to keep herself ahead of the curve, and know to whom confide in about what, before she makes any financial, social, or employment moves. Joshi does a wonderful job keeping the reader in the loop, and it's not difficult to follow along. There's also a cast list at the beginning of the novel, as well as a glossary in the back, to make following along with terms easier. I found that I didn't really need to use them, as context clues were strong enough, but it was still nice to have them provided.I can’t discuss too much else without spoilers, but I do recommend picking it up when you can - however, for content warnings there is talk about abortion present throughout the book, as well as sex work, rape, underage sex, and child/domestic abuse. If these themes are disturbing to you, I would proceed with caution, or not pick up the book at all. They are talked about in a matter of fact way, but it is not a Western culture and it is not present day, and as such some things are discussed in a way that are disturbing to a modern American reader.
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  • Bella
    January 1, 1970
    I never knew a book could take on such a magical journey. Everything about this book made me enamored for it. Taken place in the 1950's in India, Lakshmi escaped her abusive marriage when she was a teenager. She headed to the city of Jaipur where she made a huge name for herself has a Henna artist. While other henna artist used basic lines, dots, and triangles, Lakshmi's art spoke volumes and told stories about the women. The wealthy clients believed her art could bring back straying husbands I never knew a book could take on such a magical journey. Everything about this book made me enamored for it. Taken place in the 1950's in India, Lakshmi escaped her abusive marriage when she was a teenager. She headed to the city of Jaipur where she made a huge name for herself has a Henna artist. While other henna artist used basic lines, dots, and triangles, Lakshmi's art spoke volumes and told stories about the women. The wealthy clients believed her art could bring back straying husbands and make the women have babies. With her newfound stable income Lakshmi was able to afford her first home. Then the unthinkable happens and her ex-husbnd pops back into her life....and with a special guest. Her 13 year old sister Radha whom she had no idea even existed. This book takes you on a incredible journey of family traditions, secrets, revenge, and forgiveness. I loved how the author used her writing to give you a glimpse into the Indian Culture. I will admit, just like everyone has said in their reviews, the character list is quite intimidating at first. But, I had no problem keeping up. Oh, the author also provided an index in the back of all the words used in the book that were italicized. I really enjoyed it and if you're looking for an adventure to another world and country without having to fly in a airplane...this book is for you. Huge thanks to NetGalley, Mira Books, and Alka Joshi for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Savannah Porter
    January 1, 1970
    This beautiful, lush story takes place in vibrant India in the 1950s. Lakshmi, after running away from her abusive husband, makes a living by making herbal remedies and being a henna artist. But everything changes when her little sister she never knew she had turns up, homeless, lost, and known as the "Bad Luck Girl." It's no secret that I love reading about India and its culture. The Henna Artist delivered. It is so richly drenched in Indian culture with food, clothing, castes, hennas, herbs, This beautiful, lush story takes place in vibrant India in the 1950s. Lakshmi, after running away from her abusive husband, makes a living by making herbal remedies and being a henna artist. But everything changes when her little sister she never knew she had turns up, homeless, lost, and known as the "Bad Luck Girl." It's no secret that I love reading about India and its culture. The Henna Artist delivered. It is so richly drenched in Indian culture with food, clothing, castes, hennas, herbs, and Jaipur, India. I felt drawn to Lakshmi because of her ambition, work ethic, reason, feminism, and loyalty. It was an absolute pleasure to follow her throughout the book. She has a solid character arc as well as her sister, Rahda. The plot is well paced and had lots of tension to keep me reading—I couldn't put this book down all day. The writing flows very well. I would definitely recommend to those who love reading about India and about woman fighting for their future. A great debut by Alka Joshi.Writing Aesthetic/Style: 4Plot/Movement: 4Character Development: 5Overall: 4Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin-Mira for the ARC!
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