Have you ever read a book without looking at the progress, the page number you are in or the chapter number? Well, The Henna Artist is one such read, before I knew it I was on the acknowledgements page. I have never read any historical fiction of such pace with richness in plot, characters and language.
About the book
- Title: The Henna Artist.
- Author: Alka Joshi.
- Botopsy rating: 4/5⭐
- Length of the book: 368 pages long.
- Genre Fiction/ Historical.
Set in the times of 1950s in India, this novel is a poignant tale of perseverance. Lakshmi, The protagonist of this book, is the prey of an abusive marriage but somehow she manages to run away from her troublesome life in a hope to live independently. Little does she know that the future awaiting her is more alarming and ugly. Nevertheless, she makes the best of her circumstances. With the help of the skills taught by her mother-in-law, she supports herself. She becomes the most demanded Henna Artist of the Jaipur city. But the story doesn’t end here, because she has to encounter many setbacks than aids. This book has enough twists to keep you rooted in it.
Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.
OK, first things first, I loved the cover, Kudos to the designer. The cover of any book, like the blurb of the book, gives us a peek into the book which is why it is so important to have a beautiful cover. And this book’s cover is so appealing that one cannot take their eyes off it. My next favourite part of this book is the author’s research. This book is set in the time of 1950 and the author made a point to reflect that in her writing; the description of places and the character’s outlook seamlessly fit in the 1950s era.
On a serious note, this book subtly scorns the idiosyncrasy of the male dominant society and India’s social and economic stance. The author paints a not so beautiful but real picture of India explaining the difficulty of being a poor woman or woman at all. While reading this book, one cannot help but compare our attitude on women empowerment today and in the past; and ironically realize that nothing much has changed.
The pace of the plot held me by surprise when I started reading this book. I was not expecting to pull an all-nighter, but oh my god, only after a few chapters I was so engrossed into the plot that I completed it sooner than I anticipated.
Though this book was a captivating read, it did not break my heart. I mean, I was looking for something heartbreaking to happen, because then this book would have connected with me emotionally. This book seems to have concluded on a happy ending note.
The writing style of Alka Joshi is fantastic, I found myself gliding through the pages effortlessly. When I first learned that this is her debut work, I couldn’t believe it. Her deft penmanship held me by surprise.
My favourite element about the narration is that while providing the readers with the background of Lakshmi, the protagonist, the author did not give it away all at once rather she strived to give us a peek into Lakshmi’s past in a piecemeal manner. This way the characters and the plot felt more personal to me. Further, I’d like to point out that the language used is rich that provides the readers with the essence of the story.
Every character will have an impact on you. All the characters are woven with utmost intricacy, they are all flawed and that’s why they’ll feel real to you. The author used all the characters at her disposal, no character is left unused or undescribed; every character has a story to tell. This book has numerous characters that there is a lookup table at the start of the book but the author managed to register each and every character into the reader’s head.
The character arc of the main characters is commendable, one cannot help but draw strength from their traits. I wanted to know a little more about some characters, I hope there will be a lot to know in the upcoming books.
Reasons to pick this book:
- If you are looking for a light and engaging read.
- If you are up for reading a series because the author is working on the sequel of this book.
- If you like historical fiction that contains a little more fiction than history.
A reason not to pick this book:
- If you prefer long descriptions of a place or a scene. The author pretty much wrote the book in a straightforward voice, without descriptions.
This book is a great read that would appeal to both beginners and avid readers alike. Even non-Indian people would, undoubtedly, be immersed in this book. I think it can be read by people of age 18+, due to some harsh scenes. Moreover, I think that this will be a good book to read if you are in a reading slump, because of the entwined stories and realistic characters.
Finally, This book is a story about courage, making your decisions and accepting the consequences. This book has the capacity to entertain you and to encourage you to live on your terms, independently. Well, now, what are you waiting for? Pick the book and let me know what you think of it. FYI, I’m definitely going to pick the upcoming books by Alka Joshi.