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Booker Longlist – Burnt Sugar – Avni Doshi


Book Seven – reviewed by panelists Lisa, Tracy and Nicole

Avni Doshi was born New Jersey and currently lives in Dubai, UAE with her family. 

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: 

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 it is a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Avni Doshi tests the limits of what we can know for certain about those we are closest to, and by extension, about ourselves.

Lisa’s Thoughts: 

I found this book to be moderately appealing, and my scores reflect that. The intense and complex feelings between mother and daughter seem real, and I appreciated the depth of the exploration of that relationship. On the other hand, nothing particularly interesting happened in the book, and even the big reveal that occurs ¾ of the way through the book (I won’t say what it is) was predictable. Characters other than the main character and her mother are not well-developed or memorable. It’s also hard for me to ignore the fact that her description of the science of Alzheimer’s disease is incorrect.  Overall, I just don’t think there is anything remarkable about this book that would push it into Booker prize-winning territory.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development:2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 11/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: 

This was a book about memory, its loss, and a daughter’s responsibility for her mother, who was an irresponsible parent. 

The complexity of the characters, Tara and Antara, was well done, and Tara’s memory loss is handled with accuracy and sensitivity. Antara’s selective memory is also well done, in that it makes her a deeper character. There wasn’t a lot of original material here, but what was here was done nicely, with humor and depth. 

My biggest criticism is, like so many debut novels, there is so much in here, and because of all the parts, the whole suffers. Many other relationships were mentioned, and I would love to hear more about them- especially the women in the ashram- fascinating but just touched on.  

All in all, I liked this book, and would love to see more from the author. I’m glad the Booker committee chose it, as I wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise. 

Writing quality: 3.5/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 1.5/2
Total: 14.5/20

Nicole’s Thoughts: 

This book is compared to Hot Milk, and for me the only comparison is that there is a strained mother/daughter relationship.  This one was strained in ways I really cannot relate to.  The writing was very good.  Sometimes clever, sometimes excellent.  The story was sometimes interesting and sometimes not.  The characters were mostly unrelatable to me.  Sometimes it was cultural, and sometimes it was decision making.   Aside from some superb passages, reading this wasn’t an enjoyable experience.  

Writing quality: 2.5/5
Originality: 2.5/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 10/20



  1. Apeirogon 18
  2. How Much of These Hills is Gold 16.1
  3. Shuggie Bain 15.3
  4. Burnt Sugar11.8
  5. Such a Fun Age 11.1
  6. Redhead at the Side of the Road 11
  7. The New Wilderness 10.4

Have you read it?  What do you think?

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