Jaipur Trilogy #1
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.
After escaping an abusive marriage, Lakshmi, a gifted henna artist, is building her career amongst the wealthy ladies of Jaipur, where as a guest in their fabulous homes, Lakshmi is privy, not just to their secrets, but also to their hopes and fears. However, as the guardian of their insecurities, Lakshmi leaves her own life open to scrutiny, so when her thirteen year old sister, Radha, suddenly appears in Jaipur, a sister she never knew existed, Lakshmi's settled way of life is suddenly disrupted, and not always in a good way.
The sumptuous descriptions of life in 1950s Jaipur with its mix of wealth, and poverty, comes to vibrant life, and over the course of the story a picture is painted of a colourful world of chattering gossip and, sometimes, sly innuendo, but always with a distinct sense of the importance this society places on social class. Lakshmi is welcomed by the ladies of Jaipur who value her artistry but she is never one of them, and as she discovers, to her cost, this hard earned affability can change very quickly.
The story flows beautifully and the life that Lakshmi lives with her unexpected guest is an interesting one and filled with all the sights, scents and sounds of a teeming city at the height of its success. I especially enjoyed how henna art is explained, from the mixing of the henna paste, to the intricacies of Lakshmi's stunning designs as she seeks to create individual patterns for her clients which have their own special meaning, and which bring her such acclaim. However, success is fickle and Lakshmi has some difficult choices ahead of her before she can find her own true happiness.
The Henna Artist is the first book in a trilogy and I'm so pleased to have finally found the time to listen to the unabridged audio version of this fascinating story, which is so beautifully narrated, over 10 hours, by Sneha Mathan. I'm already looking forward to listening to the second book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, which is out now.
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
24 June 2021
Jaipur Trilogy #2
Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts. At age 62, Joshi released her debut novel, The Henna Artist, which immediately became a NYT bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book club pick, was Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and is being developed for a TV series. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is its sequel.