Burnt Sugar - Reading Guide
Insight and topic ideas for Avni Dosh’s compelling portrait of a complex and unusual mother-daughter relationship
Sharp as a blade and laced with Avni Doshi’s caustic wit, this a story about love and betrayal. Not between lovers - between mother and daughter.
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.
‘After I got over the initial disbelief, I felt elated. It’s difficult for a debut to garner attention at the best of times, and 2020 has brought particular challenges to contend with. I’m grateful that the longlist is helping readers find my work.
‘I wrote Burnt Sugar over many years and many drafts. It’s hard to pinpoint the original inspiration, but I remember being in my grandmother’s flat in Pune, and noticing a distortion in the mirror in her bedroom that warped my reflection. For a moment I could see two different people in my face. That day, I wrote what would become the first fragment of the novel.
‘Memory as a theme appears throughout Burnt Sugar, but I brought in Alzheimer’s Disease more recently, after my grandmother was diagnosed with the illness and I began to read everything I could find to learn about her condition. I suppose there is a parallel between the narrator’s preoccupation with Alzheimer’s and my own – she makes sense of the disease through drawing it, and I made sense of it through writing this novel.’
Read the full interview here
I suppose there is a parallel between the narrator’s preoccupation with Alzheimer’s and my own
‘This utterly compelling read examines a complex and unusual mother-daughter relationship with honest, unflinching realism – sometimes emotionally wrenching but also cathartic, written with poignancy and memorability.’
Shahidha Bari, The Guardian
‘This is an intelligent debut, deserving of its Booker shortlisting. Burnt Sugar is sorrowful, skeptical and electrifyingly truthful about mothers and daughters.’
Caroline Spalding, Yorkshire Times
‘Haunting, bold, unrestrained and beautiful, the novel cuts defiantly into your consciousness, with the ease of a sharp knife lacerating your skin. It won’t leave a scar, but instead a lasting memory: and it will leave you wanting more.’
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, New York Journal of Books
‘Burnt Sugar is an incredible novel with messages and characters that remain with its reader far beyond the final line. In this sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, always ephemeral piece of literature, Avni Doshi unspools an original take on the theme of inheritance—what we take on willingly and unwillingly.’
‘This is a tale of obsession and betrayal. This is a poisoned love story. But not between lovers - between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and compulsively readable, Burnt Sugar slowly untangles the knot of memory and fiction that binds two women together, revealing the truth that lies beneath.’
‘Extraordinary. Exquisitely written, painfully exhilarating, impossible to put down… An elegant family story that sizzles with hatred… Come for the effortlessly stylish writing, stay for the boiling wrath.’
Actor Ayesha Dharker performs a reading from 2020 Booker Prize-shortlisted author Avni Doshi’s book, Burnt Sugar.
This was originally streamed during The Booker Prize 2020 winner ceremony.