Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
Escaping 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.
To all those Indians who have read this book and to all those Indians who plan on reading this beauty – please understand that this is a fictionalized version of an India after independence & while there might have been historical inconsistencies, it is the story that matters.
The Henna Artist is the quest of a young woman for independence in a world that doesn’t give a whole lot of opportunities to woman – any woman, of any caste, creed or wealth!
Lakshmi is a Henna Artist – she ran away from her abusive husband, and now makes a living as a Henna Artist; but also as a woman who provides “extra” service to the woman whose hands and feet she decorates. Her henna has reached a notoriety of having special powers – of inducing passion in the woman’s husbands or even the conception of much wanted heir or child!
She is finally getting close to having her own home; financial independence and a way of getting her parents to forgive her for running away from her husband, even though her parents have never replied to even a single letter she sent them.
When her erstwhile husband comes looking for her, along with a much younger sister she never knew about; she just knew her life was never going to be the same. Ever again.
What I enjoyed, when I suspended my disbelief at the fictionalised scandalous Indian society of just independent India – was the lyrical and almost hypnotic writing style of the author that books you right from the beginning until you can’t help but read through till the end!