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The Henna Artist

“In India, individual shame did not exist. Humiliation spread, as easily as oil on wax paper, to the entire family, even to distant cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.”

Plot Overview

17-year-old Lakshmi escapes from an abusive marriage and builds her life in the city of Jaipur as one of the most sought out henna artist. She is doing well professionally and building the life of her dreams. But 13 years later, she is startled to find her husband and her 13-year-old sister Radha, whose existence she wasn’t even aware of, at her door. The book follows her life trying to find a balance between traditional and modern.

My Reading Experience

It is both good luck and bad luck for this book that I read along with A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Good luck because that book only inspired me to find books set up in that era and bad because I end up comparing the two, which is quite unfair.

I am picking Indian literature after quite a long time, and the sense of familiarity that you get from a book written around the people and culture you have grown up with is like a soothing balm. The festival, the dialects, the culture, the prejudices everything is beautifully captured in this book.

The most beautiful thing about this book is its characters.

Are they lovable? Not entirely

Are they relatable? Yes

The best thing about these characters are they all felt very human. A woman who does want to be tied with the responsibility of children and family, and another girl who is ready to give up her life and her future for the family and a juvenile dream.

A society where you keep mum to the injustices until it is profitable to you and only learn to see the ugliness when it hits home.

Alka Joshi has done a beautiful job in bringing out the contrasts in the book. You will find yourself both loving and disliking the characters of this book at the same time.

There are few things that I find a little unbelievable like the redemption of Hari, but I guess those are just minor things and can be overlooked.


I listened to this book on Storytel and I had an amazing experience. I am looking forward to getting to the second part of this book The Secret Keeper of Jaipur soon

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Published inBooksFiction

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