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The Henna Artist

(The Henna Artist #1)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  81,909 ratings  ·  7,903 reviews
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 becom
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Mira Books
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Lea Brovedani I would let my child read this if I was open to having discussions about sexuality and unwanted pregnancies and what that means to women. I think it i…moreI would let my child read this if I was open to having discussions about sexuality and unwanted pregnancies and what that means to women. I think it is perfect for opening up conversations that every parent should have with their child. Inequality, class, and poverty have an impact on the life we live. (less)

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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  81,909 ratings  ·  7,903 reviews

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Katie B
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 th ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i really enjoyed this, but once i read the authors note at the end, it made the book that much more meaningful. this story is an imagining of the life AJs mother could have lived, had she not entered an arranged marriage when she was a teenager.

its a tale of perseverance, history, self-worth, forgiveness, womanhood, and family. lakshmi is also a character worth reading about. i adored her hard work ethic and her determination to create the life she knows she deserves. she made is very easy for
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
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 husb ...more
Smitha Murthy
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like 'exotic' tales of India
I have done this again. Not really fallen for a book that everyone seems to be raving about. But see - I am from South India. We don’t really go around applying henna for fun, on occasions, to get pregnant or arouse desire in our spouses. The art of henna itself is far removed from my life. That’s not why I struggled with this book.

It’s just that I have a feeling this book is written for that white woman who finds India ‘exotic’ and swoons at its ‘spirituality.’ It’s not written for the Indian
Alex Black
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
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 bec ...more
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
There’s a whole classification of books I think of as “flog fiction.” You know the type, where reading them feels like you’re beating yourself with a stick all in the name of “literature.” These books often get described as “difficult yet powerful,” because the things that happen to the protagonists are so horrible it’s like torture turning each page for fear of what atrocities will lie ahead.

I expected The Henna Artist to be flog fic, but to my surprise it’s anything but. In fact, author Alka J
Elyse  Walters
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure what I could possibly add to the already wonderful reviews by Alka Joshi’s debut novel.
I purchased the ebook back in early March - before the pandemic lockdown - having no idea that it was a Reese Witherspoon Sunshine Book Club Pick.
Life and other books got in the way - as many readers understand too well, too.

A sweet birdie from India, gently reminded me to read “The Henna Artist”....[ for goodness sake, it’s time already].... and I did!

I was in India for almost a full year in the
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved reading this book. I got completely immersed in Lakshmi's world and felt that Alka Joshi appealed to all of my senses through her lyrical smooth writing. Lakshmi was a strong female protagonist who is brave and smart and admirable but also fallible and relatable. I loved how all of the characters wound together and enjoyed seeing different sides of their personalities through their relationships with others. I would highly recommend this book as a must read.

There is a characte
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Henna Artist follows Lakshmi, a 30 year old woman who fled her abusive marriage years ago to start over in Jaipur. She’s worked hard to become the most sought after henna artist there, with many wealthy clients. They trust her, as she keeps their secrets, but she’s also smart with an entrepreneurial mindset and working toward owning her own home.

Lakshmi is surprised when her younger sister, Radha, shows up unexpectedly — She’s been away from her former life so long, she didn’t realize she e
Honestly, I saw the book cover, the title, and I was sold. I love to read anything that takes place in India or dives into Indian culture. I was on the longest wait from my library (always a good sign) and then I happened to find the audio on Hoopla so I jumped right in.

The story takes place in 1950's India in Jaipur. Lakshmi works as a henna artist, one that is highly sought after by the wealthy ladies of Jaipur. She's alone and working very hard for a new home that she is building. And one day
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
I am starting to think that the best way for me to enjoy a book is to go into it somewhat blind, for that is exactly what I did with this book.

Books that show how women of an earlier time made their way in what was a patriarchal world always make me realize the progress we have made in the direction of equality. Granted there is still a long road to travel, but we will get there.

At any rate, this story's setting is in India in the 1950s, right after the Raj has given up main control of the coun
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
4 transport me to India stars

This one completely absorbed me and took me to 1950s India with rich and colorful descriptions of the sights and sounds. We meet Lakshmi, the Henna Artist of Jaipur. She’s built an amazing business for herself and is even having her dream house built. She’s sought after by all the ladies in town and might even get an invitation to the royal palace. She has an herbal medicine business on the side as well. This was a fascinating side story as most of these herbs were v
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great debut!
This was very entertaining.
I love entering a different culture.
India is fascinating as is disturbing (all that poverty, violence against women and caste system - did you know that there are over 3k castes and 25k subcastes in India? - these topics are just highlighted in this book)
Although the writing is very simple, I was engaged from the very beginning and I was transported to the era and culture.
The storyline was absorbing and well developed/structured.
The only reason I’m
Provin Martin
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lakshmi ran away from her home at 17. She’s now a 30 year old henna artist in India during the 1950’s. She has spent many years supporting herself in order to create the life she’s always wanted. She has done well enough to support herself and she sends money back home to her family. One of her employees wants to find a match for her boarding school son Ravi. Lakshmi is grateful to have the opportunity to arrange his marriage., and for the money it will provide her family.

Lakshmi is trying to b
La Tonya  Jordan
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Honeycomb of Page Turners part of the Bee Hive Book Club
A fabulous read. The life of Lakshmi path to contentment was not the road must traveled. India in 1955 after the removal of the British was a time were Indians were starting to feel proud within themselves. For Lakshmi is was a time for her to show her true worth. Getting the foundation of her craft as a henna artist and a healer in her tiny village of Ajar, she leaves an abusive arranged marriage to find her purpose and value in life knowing she deserved better.

In Jaipur, she is the henna arti
da AL
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When's the last time you read something unapologetically pro-choice -- & that's as empowering as it is romantic? Me? Never. Can't wait for Joshi's next book! Wish there were more novels that discuss pro-choice issues head-on. Enchanting story set in 1950s India from women's point of view about the choices we're given and how much we can make with them. Audiobook narrator Sneha Mathan is marvelous! ...more

3.5 stars

This novel is set in mid-1950s India, a few years after the sub-continent gained its independence from Great Britain. The main character, Lakshmi Shastri, is a twentysomething woman who fled from her arranged marriage thirteen years ago.

Lakshsmi recalls, "I could no longer endure my husband's beatings; the wounds that made me bleed; the words that cut me open; the mornings I could barely get up off the floor. And all for what? For the child I couldn't give him."

Before Lakshsmi left, he
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I entered Lakshmi's world of India in the 1950's, I was transported to another time and place. I listened to the audio book of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi read by Sneha Mathan. It was a beautiful, well written book that captured my heart from the beginning. The characters were so well described, complex and memorable that I often found myself closing my eyes and was easily able to picture them. Alka Joshi's storytelling was masterful and engaging. It was a book about family, sisters, a cas ...more
Author Alka Joshi brings the richness of India to life in this heartwarming story as we follow Lakshmi's (the title character's) personal successes and struggles during this country's transition between traditional and modern lifestyles from 1955 to 1956. My senses came alive through Joshi's vibrant descriptions of cultural aspects such as the food, language, fashion and mannerisms.

Her biggest gift to this story; however, is the depth of her characters. None of them are perfect (except maybe Mal
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
I picked this up from GR book award nominations section, saw the wonderful reviews and decided to go for it. It started off really well, then went downhill and never revived itself. I really just wanted to finish reading it after a point.

I was confused about all those raving reviews before realizing that this book was written keeping in mind the international audience and what sells to them. It was not meant for Indian readers who would find the loopholes and would not be swayed by the ayurvedi
RoseMary Achey
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 successfu
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

If you fancy an exotic, Indian-style soap opera, get your sweaty mitts on this novel tout de suite.
It's rich in cultural details about 1950s Jaipur, which elevates it to something more than chick lit, despite all the cattiness and backstabbing and one-upping of the high society ladies.
It's not deathless prose, but it's highly readable. I finished it in a couple of days.
Allison Faught
May 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, 4-star
Such a beautiful and heartfelt book!
I felt so calm reading this book because of the beautiful imagery. It was so relaxing reading this every morning to start my day and every night before bed. The scenes just sounded so beautiful.
The topics in this book are incredibly sensitive but I truly felt Joshi was tactful in building a story around them.
It took me a bit longer to read this than I had originally hoped since I kept flipping to the dictionary to learn (and relearn) what some of the foreign
Jananie (thisstoryaintover)
Omg this was so good 😭😭😭 I flew through this in two days and it's been such an incredible, enveloping story that's completely stolen my heart. The setting of Jaipur came to life off the page and I was so invested in Lakshmi's life from fleeing her marriage as a young girl to being the capable businesswoman to having to take care of her (often ungrateful) younger sister but also to the growth she reached by the end and the new purpose she found. I have so much love for Lakshmi and Malik and Madho ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
The Henna Artist transported me to 1950s Jaipur with its vividly descriptive and beautiful writing.

The protagonist, Lakshmi, is hard-working, bright and resourceful, and while I didn’t always agree with her choices, I really wanted to see her succeed. She was flawed in a way that made her relatable which I liked.

Malik was my favorite character and I wish more of his backstory would have been provided. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and was impressed to find out it was the author’s debut n
Deacon Tom F
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Classic

I thought that “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi was a masterfully crafted novel.

The storyline contains eloquent descriptions, vivid use of metaphor and a moving plot that powerfully balances a yearning for family with the need for fortune.

In short, it is about one woman’s (Lakshmi) struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional view of women as property and the modern ideas of woman’s property ownership.

The backstory of the book brings us into a culture that
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘There comes a point in every daughter's life when she begins seeing her mother as a person separate from her family, someone who has an identity outside of motherhood. That was the moment I began re-imagining my mother's life, and that re-imagining became THE HENNA ARTIST.’
Author Alka Joshi

Wow, what a debut!

I’m so glad I finally squeezed it in. Lakshmi’s story captivated me from the first chapter. Joshi did such a great job in surrounding me with every aspect of Indian life. The sights, smell
Oh my. So much love for The Henna Artist! I admit that I did struggle a bit at the beginning but was quickly pulled into this beautifully written story of Lakshmi in 1950's India. I love historical fiction and enjoy reading about other cultures. This is honestly the first book I have read about the Indian culture and I absolutely loved Lakshmi's story! ...more
The Bibliophile Doctor
I'm always hesitant to pick up books by Indian authors written in English as they tend to be written for foreign readers, concentrating solely on stark poverty in India along with biases and hypocrisy.

Henna artist had raving reviews on Instagram and it piqued my interest as it was chosen by Reese's book club. Now I don't often take the chance at all of reading someone Indian as it disppoints me and makes me furious, The Henna Artist on the other hand was a journey that was soulful and subtle wit
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There comes a point in every daughter's life when she begins seeing her mother as a person separate from her family, someone who has an identity outside of motherhood. That was the moment I began re-imagining my mother's life, and that re-imagining became THE HENNA ARTIST. I was born in Rajasthan, India, and moved with my family to the U.S. when I was nine. Even after graduating from Stanford Univ ...more

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