Determined to build a life for herself on her terms, Lakshmi flees from her village, leaving behind her parents and abusive husband. Over the years, she garners a topnotch reputation as a henna artist, serving the wealthy & elite families of Jaipur. But one day, there’s a surprise visit from her hometown. And if Lakshmi doesn’t take charge, it could very well threaten to upend the control she has meticulously gained on her new life.
Alka Joshi has such a refined writing style. Her words are as rich as the tapestries of the traditional India she brings to life in this historical fiction. My absolute favourite aspect of the book has to be the writing. It kept me enthralled the whole time. And if not for the simple grace that permeates the narration, I may not have been as invested in the book.
The story is a vivid portrait of class hierarchies and societal norms. It depicts just how far one needs to go in order to retain a modicum of respect in society. And that too a fragile, diluted form of respect.
The reason I have mixed feelings about the plot in itself is that a lot of the elements that make the story three dimensional are quite trite; the depiction of wealthy women as being superficial, the mob mentality, all the adultery, the teenager who gets negatively influenced, and so on.
Apart from Malik, whose character left no stone unturned in his attempts to be supportive and helpful, I found it difficult to fully appreciate any other character in the book. Despite all the blame that Lakshmi takes upon herself, her actions didn’t align with her thoughts. Eager to earn her teenage sister’s affection, she stands aside and lets others guide Radha.
I know I will be picking up the second instalment in the series because of the time period that the books are set in (Post-Independent India), the author’s flair for writing, and the setting. I just hope that the sequel will offer us more in terms of characters and plot.