In Burnt Sugar, Avni Doshi’s Booker-shortlisted novel, a young woman watches as her mother loses things – recipes, streets, faces. Associations fade or blur until her mother is unable to navigate the streets of Pune in west India, where she has spent her whole life.
Memory is ‘a form of architecture’, wrote the artist Louise Bourgeois. ‘You pile up associations the way you pile up bricks.’ The novel’s narrator, Antara, must witness her mother’s house of memory crumble. The account is sharp and unsentimental, though rich with emotion: ‘I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,’ Antara tells us.
Faced with becoming a long-term carer, Antara imagines how things might be if India ‘allowed for assisted suicide like the Netherlands’. In fact, she confesses to dreaming about her mother’s death: ‘Sometimes, I refer to Ma in the past tense even though she is still alive. This would hurt her