The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi – Book Review

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi - Book Review feature image

What do you want from your life? If I say that it is not in your hands, how do you feel? Here I am reviewing a special book about The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. This book tells you about women and the choices they get to make in their lives and lets you know about India’s grandeur and traditional culture. Let’s find out what this book manifests. 

Alka Joshi wrote this story about a woman Lakshmi who struggled to achieve her own identity on her terms and navigating the patriarchal system. She escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to the pink city of Jaipur during the 1950s to show her art of henna and the skills of making various ayurvedic medicines. And there, she became the highly prominent henna artist among the wealthy women of the upper classes. 

As you scroll further, you will know many more intriguing things about the novel. You will come to know about Lakshmi and what she wishes from her life far beyond being a wife and a mother. She wanted to do something amazing and accomplish her art.

Let’s explore the article more and see what more we can learn from the novel. 

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Alka Joshi sitting with her book The Heena Artist
Source: Monterey County Weekly

About The Author | Alka Joshi

Alka Joshi was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. In 1967, she moved to America with her family. She has done her education in BA from Stanford university and MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco. Apart from writing, she ran an advertising and marketing agency for 30 years. 

The henna artist was her first novel. It took 10 years to publish this book and this was her 30th draft of the book. I remember the exact words she said in one of her interviews ” Take the time to make the best products that it can be and have patience with yourself. “So as she said, she also came up with the bestselling book.

The Book Henna Artist : Book Overview

The henna artist was officially published in 2020 on 3rd March by Alka Joshi and became a New York bestseller. The henna artist is an inspirational book of fiction set in the post British raj 1950s in Jaipur, India. India, is a beautiful rich place with centuries of old traditions. 

Lakshmi is the main character in this novel and narrator for everything except the prologue. She is a wonderful feminist icon and an expert henna artist with a master of herbal medicine and remedies for various illnesses.

How much of the henna artist is based on real people or events? So the real are India’s sights, sounds, colors, and vibrancy. The art of henna, aromatherapy, the various ayurvedic medicines and herbal treatments are all real. The novel is an image of what the author’s mother’s life could have looked like if her mother did not have all the cultural restrictions. 

The Henna Artist: Book Summary

The story is set in Rajasthan and is about a woman named Lakshmi. She was married at a very young age and it was an abusive marriage, so she ran away and went to the pink city Jaipur. She was very fortunate that she had a very good mother-in-law who was a healer of thought and taught her how to use herbs and natural remedies to help other women with their illnesses.

So when Lakshmi moves to the city, she learns how to do henna; she impresses the list of clients right from the maharani to all the wealthy upper-class women of Jaipur. The specialty of Lakshmi’s henna is that she made personalized designs for each woman and involved many components in her designs that specifically belonged to every woman.

Being an artist, she is also a healer and prepares a lot of herbs for her clients. So she has a very high standard among upper-class women. When Lakshmi thinks her life is going just as per plan when her sister arrives, she turns her world upside down. Lakshmi didn’t know about her sister’s existence until she saw her sister on her doorstep; now, her life takes a lot of dramatic twists and turns.

Then she managed to make decisions on behalf of herself and her sisters. It’s a kind of social drama that takes place in her life. The novel reviews the themes of Indian female obedience.

What to Learn from the Book? 

Quotes from The Henna Artist

Women throughout history have done many things; even being raised in patriarchal societies, they find some corner of that life that they can call their own. We can learn a lot from this book, especially from the character Lakshmi.

Lakshmi believes that there is a larger life out there than the one she has been relegated to. Lakshmi is not perfect; she intended to find independence, living in a way to manage her own life and create her destiny.

Alka Joshi wrote this novel for her mother and reimagined her existence as the main character who gives wings to her own life.

My Thoughts on the Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Well, I loved the character of Lakshmi. She is very worldly-wise, which has made her independent and self-reliant. She has a survivor mentality which helped her to become a henna artist.

I also loved how the author depicted Rajasthan, the bazaar of clothes, the colors, the scents, and the sound that you can experience in Rajasthan. All of this evokes the essence of India.

I also like that the women in this book are not represented as helpless who have no identities of their own. This book depicted women with very strong personalities.

Rating for The Henna Artist

I would happily give The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi 4.5/5 stars!

Conclusion & Recommendation of the Book 

I will recommend this book to everyone to read this novel because our society is still with the things we talked about in the henna artist that India is still dealing with, especially when it comes to women.

In this book, the story shows how Lakshmi makes her destiny with her intelligence. She doesn’t need others to decide for her. She makes the way she is and one thing women need to understand is that they are good in just the way they are.

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