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Lies of the Henna Artist

The Henna Artist- Book Review

Alka Joshi’s debut novel,' The Henna Artist' is an extraordinary work of fiction.

Based in the year 1950, in the vibrant Pink City, Jaipur, the book gives you more than just a glimpse of the not so ‘noble’ lives in the palaces. It shows the lies behind the jewel-adorned gates. Alka portrays the darkness that is left behind when the light goes off.

The protagonist of the story is Lakshmi. She escapes her abusive marriage to make a life of her own in Jaipur. Craving independence and respect, Lakshmi makes her own identity. She starts by making contraceptive sachets for courtesans and later becomes the Henna Artist of upper-class women. Although Lakshmi has found a home in the gossip-fed streets of Jaipur, she is often found reminiscing about her previous life.

“There were three kinds of karma: the accumulated karma from all our past lives; the karma we created in this life; and the karma we stored to ripen in our future lives.”

The untied strings of Lakshmi's past come back to her, when her little sister Radha along with her husband Hari, comes knocking at her door. The plot develops from here as it digs the secrets that were buried long ago.

Alka has showcased the voices of women from all walks of life- the upper-class rich women, the lonely Maharanis in the Palaces, the woman who can’t give birth; the oppressed ones in the villages, and the thirteen-year-old pregnant girl. The book doesn’t withhold telling the truth. The writing is fierce and bold.

The characters of these books are rich and complex. Their intriguing personality and distinct characteristics make this book interesting, that you find yourself completely engrossed and allured by the tale.


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