This is a combined book review of Alka Joshi’s The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. These books are part of a trilogy, with the final instalment yet to be released. I am not waiting with bated breath for the final book – I doubt I’ll read it. Read on to know why.
The Henna Artist Review
The first book, The Henna Artist, came highly recommended as Reese Witherspoon had chosen it for her book club, and it has also topped many Bestseller lists. Goodreads also rates it very highly. My opinions differ significantly.
The book started off well enough. I had good hopes for a mystery or even a romance. She aimed for a bit of both but lost my interest mid-way through the book. The writing is not excellent, and the story gets predictable very soon. The characters are not fleshed out, and we know them only superficially. I did not feel for any character in the book.
The protagonist, Lakshmi, is portrayed as an empowered, independent woman with progressive ideas on birth control in a conservative society. She has to rely on her wits to make a good living till her past catches up with her.
“Success was ephemeral—and fluid—as I’d found out the hard way. It came. It went.”
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur Review
The second book in the Henna Artist series, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, is a sequel set about a decade later with the same cast of characters and a few more. There’s a semblance of adventure and mystery, which again doesn’t lead anywhere and is unsurprising. There’s nothing much in the text relevant to the title of the book either.
There is a lot of reference to history from the past book, making vast chunks of text seem highly repetitive. Especially since I read both the books back-to-back. My major problem with the storyline is that I find it hard to believe that a trained architect didn’t think sub-standard bricks and cement would hold up a structure for long.
Those who like happy endings will like how things turned out in the sequel. By the end, everything falls into place perfectly. Too perfectly!
“…there were three kinds of karma: the accumulated karma from all our past lives; the karma we created in this life; and the karma we stored to ripen in our future lives.”
The Jaipur Series Review
Both the books, The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, have the same underlying theme. It’s of an older woman dealing with a petulant younger woman’s love life. The self-assured older woman seems to be in control of her life but is filled with doubts when it comes to her relationships with these younger women in her charge.
The book is filled with Hindi proverbs and sayings – just so many of them. It gets pretty annoying. There’s also a lot of information about herbal remedies and their power to cure just about anything (although I’m thankful there are times when they do recommend regular medical doctors).
The elaborate descriptions of the sights, sounds and customs make me feel that this is meant to cater to a Western audience (who have received it well). The colourful imagery of palaces and other locales makes me think this will make a better movie, on the lines of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – minimal substance and storyline, plenty of exotic locales.
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