Review: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Mira Books 2020)

Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri

Historical fiction opens the gateway to a different time and place. The settings themselves make readers long for somewhere they’ve never been. This is the case in Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist.

Set in the 1950s, The Henna Artist transports us back to India a few years after gaining independence from the British. Joshi’s vivid imagery makes India’s past crawl off the page, bringing it to life: “We entered a colonnade flanked by lush gardens. Topiary elephants frolicked on the lawns. Live peacocks pranced around circular fountains. Stone urns sprouted honeysuckle, jasmine and sweet pea” (142). Amidst the color and beauty of historical India, Joshi also gives us a taste of the social, economic, and political climates of the time, shedding light on the difficulties for people of lower castes and women.

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