book review: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi





BURNT SUGAR
★★☆☆☆
Harry N. Abrams, 2021


I admired but didn’t particularly like this book. I’ve talked before about how I don’t really get on with books about motherhood, and sometimes the reverse is true too, I don’t always love books about daughterhood, especially when it’s the book’s main focus. (Something like Transcendent Kingdom is the exception, where the mother/daughter relationship is one thread among many.)

I was finding something salvageable in the first half of Burnt Sugar, but the second half just lost me. While I tend to enjoy ‘unlikable’ protagonists, Antara was often too much for me–I found her to be deliberately belligerent toward the reader in a way that I didn’t think was particularly interesting or well-executed. I think this book does have a lot going for it in terms of its chilly depiction of a strained mother/daughter relationship, but Antara herself staunchly refused to do any of the heavy lifting to earn my investment. I just didn’t find her believable or her actions comprehensible; this book is written in the first person and still I struggled to discern some of Antara’s motivations (this isn’t helped by the book’s awkward structure, flitting between the past and the present in a way that was occasionally challenging to follow and which I didn’t think ultimately did it any favors). 

Avni Doshi’s prose also failed to impress me, but, like most of my criticisms here, I feel that might just be a matter of personal taste. I do see why this book has been so critically well-received, it just really wasn’t for me.


Thank you to Netgalley and Abrams for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

5 thoughts on “book review: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

  1. Damn it. I had high hopes for this but we so very often agree when it comes to this kind of book. And even my patience for motherhood books has been wearing thin.

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  2. Great review! I’m a bit torn over whether to read this one – perhaps if it makes it to the shortlist, but as of now none of the reviews I read managed to convince. This just sounds… a bit like a chore? But I’m always curious when many people say it’s a matter of personal taste – so now I’m curious. RACHEL HELP

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  3. Absolutely everything I’ve heard about this confirms that my extreme disinterest in it a few months ago was the correct choice for me.

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