by Avni Doshi, Vineeta Rishi (Narrator)
Publication date: July 30th 2020
Publisher: Penguin Audio (first published August 25th 2019)
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
A searing debut novel about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal—for fans of Jenny Offill’s Weather, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk and Diana Evans’ Ordinary People.
In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents) and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’—all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.
This is a love story and a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery cords of memory and myth that bind two women together and hold them apart.
I’ve been putting off reviewing this book because I know that people love it and I’m about to go against the grain yet again! I just didn’t get ‘Burnt Sugar’ at all.
At first I was convinced this was non-fiction and in those moments I was thinking about how great the story was and had really hopeful expectations for how the book would play out. When we first meet her, the narrator, Antara, is coming to terms with the fact that her mother’s memory is starting to fail. I blindly went in to this book and just assumed that this very honest tale was based on truth and perhaps some kind of memoir.
Unfortunately this was not the case and it soon became clear that this was a work of fiction. When I found this out, my attention did begin to wane and the story became more and more tedious with every chapter. For the most part I found this to be a bit of a ramble without a strong plot.
There are some important themes scattered throughout and it’s clear the writer intended this to be a relatively thought provoking read that deliberately makes the reader feel uncomfortable at times. I’m afraid this one just wasn’t for me and I gave up on it towards the end.
This is the second 2020 Booker nominee that I’ve disliked this year. Perhaps I need to venture away from these awards for a little bit!
Overall rating: ‘Burnt Sugar’ wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t find it be engaging and struggled to connect – 1 star from me.