BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Interesting,
Informative,
Beautiful

6 reviews

The Henna Artist: A Novel
by Joshi Alka

Published: 2020-03-03T00:0
Hardcover : 368 pages
52 members reading this now
87 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 6 members
A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.”—Publishers Weekly

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.”—Publishers Weekly

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.

Editorial Review

No Editorial Review Currently Available

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

From book club chat:

Did you know about this book prior to Reese selecting it for her book club? What are your initial thoughts about the story?

In her author’s note, Alka said that she wrote this novel for her mother and reimagined her existence as Lakshmi who creates a life for her own. Let’s talk about the author’s choice to turn a personal story into a reimagined fictional one.

What are some of the key areas that you learned regarding about Indian culture in the 1950s?

There’s a lot that is discussed about life after India gained independence from Britain. The beginning of the novel Lakshmi says, “Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.” Let’s talk about what we think she meant by that.

A big theme of the novel is having the freedom of choice. Initially Lakshmi is denied this when she’s forced to marry the abusive Hari. Once she escapes this marriage, she’s able to make a living working as an henna artist for wealth women while also providing tea sachets to women for a host of reasons including for fertility as well as abortion. Let’s talk about the theme of freedom as it relates to Lakshmi’s story.

Lakshmi’s sister Radha has a very hard upbringing as her family was shamed when Lakshmi fled her marriage and the village. Women in the village gave Radha the cruel nickname of the “bad luck girl.” Let’s talk about how Radha eventually overcame that negative image that others created for her.

There seems to be a struggle to find a balance between tradition and modern during this era in India. Let’s talk about this.

Why do you think Lakshmi and Radha had such a volatile relationship for most of the story? What was the driving force for their relationship to improve?

What are you thoughts about Samir and Lakshmi? Do you think he cared about her or was she just another woman to him? What did you think about the fact they eventually did sleep together?

Lakshmi’s dreams all lie into her a house that she is trying to pay for herself. She believes that this is a symbol of her independence. But yet, there’s one wrong thing after another. Why do you think this house became such a burden for her? What did she learn by letting go of this house?

Radha, at age 13, gets pregnant by Ravi who is Samir and Parvati’s son. Lakshmi is horrified and Kanta believes that introducing Radha to American film and different kinds of romance literature proved to be a bad influence to Radha. Let’s discuss this storyline.

If there’s an antagonist in the novel, Parvati seems to be it. But she ends up helping Lakshmi with taking the house out of her hands, despite knowing that Lakshmi was intimate with Samir. Let’s talk about this decision by Parvati.

What did you think about the ending and how Lakshmi, Radha and Malik move together to the Himalayan foothills? Do you think her and Dr. Kumar will get together?

Suggested by Members

Do you think if Radha didn't show up that Lakshmi life would of turned out differently?
Do you think at the end of the book that Hari truly showed remorse?
What did you think of Parvati buying Lakshmi house at the end? Did she do it out of pity or our of respect
by [email protected] (see profile) 12/20/20

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Batti balls or any Indian dish in the state of Rajasthan
by [email protected] (see profile) 12/20/20
You'll find the recipe at the end of the book :)

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by [email protected] (see profile) 03/21/21

Loved this book!

 
by Josie02 (see profile) 01/27/21

I like to learn about different cultures

 
  "The Henna Artist "by Mysillyboy (see profile) 01/15/21

What a beautiful book. I have v ih sited Jaipur & fell in love with the city. I definitely coukd imagine everything in that book. Definitely a must read

 
  "An interesting read about life's struggles in India."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/28/20

The Henna Artist: A Novel, Alka Joshi, author; Sneha Mathan, narrator
At the age of 15, Lakshmi’s parents arranged for her marriage to Hari Shastri a rickshaw driver. After two years of p
... (read more)

 
  "Fantastic vibrant characters "by [email protected] (see profile) 12/20/20

Wow, what an amazing read! You'll learn much about the art of henna and what is was like in1950's India culture. The author makes you feel like you are in the streets Jaipur, Rajasthan and... (read more)

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 12/19/20

This book was a fantastic insight into life in India in the 50s.

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...