Burnt Sugar (ARC)
Author: Avni Doshi
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Released: July 30th, 2020
Characters: Antara, Tara, Dilip, Reza, …
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, choking cord of memory and myth that binds two women together, making and unmaking them endlessly.
It has been a lengthy book in terms of the story, the descriptions and emotions. The details that was given to the events that take place in the book was phenomenal and it provides one with deep understanding on what’s going on and how the characters are feeling, etc. It’s necessary for one to truly understand Antara as a character who’s always struggling. She has a traumatizing childhood, being neglected by her own mother most of the time. As an adult, she has this conflict with her duty as a daughter and her hatred towards her mother.
At first, I was shocked by her deep hatred towards her mother, but then I realised she has every right to be so. However, her mother, Tara also had a difficult life as a woman, but she made too many bad decisions including abandoning her child. This book also highlights ashram, a spiritual place where Tara turns into for a certain time in her life. We a get a good glimpse of what’s happening in there and how Antara suffers as a child. However, I do wish for the author to go deeper about the ashram, so that I can understand better and it is indeed one of my favourite part in the book. If this book were to be written by a non-poc, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as good and as descriptive as what it is now.
Plot wise, it’s not moving much for me. It’s going back and forth between the past and present. I feel the author is trying to make us see how and why these two women ended up the way they did. Hence, it was really hard for me to finish this book because it lacks of plot progression but it’s more in depth in terms of the main character’s emotions and what she’s going through. I think especially after her pregnancy, it got worse and from that point onwards, I can see how much she’s struggling, emotion wise. The things that she does and experiencing was very difficult to imagine.
The ending feels as if Antara was being delusional. But again it could be as the author wrote, the mother deceived the people around them. In my opinion, Burnt Sugar could be a book that is open for interpretation (or maybe it’s me overthinking).
In short, this book discusses on complex relationship between mother and daughter, endless vicious cycle of womanhood (how one woman will always make their daughter feel they’ll end up as bad as them, it’s their destiny to live under oppression), patriarchal society, postpartum/ mental illness and spiritual journey.
Thank you Times Reads for sending this book in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested, go check it out in the bookstores near you or just grab it online.