burnt sugar by avni doshi

i didn’t give this book any rating. my scale does not have a necessary definition for it. how can i say “really liked it” about the book that was so painful to read.

avni doshi is an immensely brave writer. the subject of bad relationship between mother and daughter is almost taboo in modern english-languaged literature. at least, when i looked for anything that is fiction, and not of self-help genre.

antara, the narrator, is in the middle of a crisis – her mother is seemingly falling victim to dementia. this puts antara into unresolvable bind – she has no warm feelings towards her mother while experiencing massive pressure to fulfil her daughterly obligation and care for the frail parent. that pressure is both external – traditional patriarchal society – and internal – through growing up in such society.

reader, following antara’s hardship, really can’t judge her. her childhood was such that it’s a miracle she got through it, no thanks to her mother. at the same time, there is mother’s side of reality, adding a ton of nuance. quickly, the narrative gets hazy, reality is shaky, and nothing is clear. the only thing you can be sure of is that both of them had incredibly difficult, traumatic lives.

the novel felt so real. there is no clear distinctions between bad and good, no neat resolution of confict.

i am cautious of recommending this book, because it is a heavy one, and the more you empathise with it, the more difficult it is.

p.s. this book was first published in usa under the title “girl in white cotton”, and “burnt sugar” is the title for uk edition. isn’t the latter so much better?