Book Review of Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar
Set in Pune in the west-central Maharashtra state in India, Burnt Sugar is primarily an exploration of a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. Burnt Sugar is told from the viewpoint of Anantara. who we learn had an unconventional and neglected childhood.
In her youth Anantara's mother, Tara, had left her husband to join an ashram. Whilst Tara took Anantara with her she largely ignored her as she embarked upon a wild and unsatisfactory love affair with the ashram leader, After later being rejected and leaving the ashram, there followed a stint as a beggar, and a further unconventional and unsatisfactory love affair with the waiter/writer Reza.
The reader joins the story when Tara is in middle-age but suffering from early onset dementia. Anantara is married to Dilip, (an immigrant reluctant to return home to America), The story is based on an exploration of Anantara's emotions and own unravelling sense of self. The ties of Tara and Anantara are, it seems impossible to break, as the lines between love and hate merge.
The unravelling sense of self seems to be reflected through the first person narrative. Conventionality is challenged and rejected. Dysfunctionality is presented as normality; The narrator uses an understated matter-of fact tone to reveal complex and shocking emotions. The reader is drawn into exploring the unravelling not only of Tara's mind, but also that of Anantara.
An acerbic wit is used to ponder big life questions which encourage an engaged reader to confront truth in all its ugliness. Burnt Sugar is raw and challenging. It reveals the cruelty of life in a deceptively readable manner.
Book Discussion Questions on Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar
Bookclub Questions on Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar (if you haven't read the book!)
Personal Response to Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar
This is a great debut novel from Dubai based author Avni Doshi. After reading the first few pages I thought it was going to be a topical and timely exploration of caring for a parent with dementia. It had pleased me that such an important topic had been chosen for a Booker Prize longlisted text. How wrong I'd been in this oversimplification. Burnt Sugar is a story of love and hate, betrayal, forgiveness and revenge. It takes the emotions of a dysfunctional familial relationship and takes the exploration of mother/daughter relationships to extremities.