NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • A "gripping thriller with compassionate social commentary" (USA Today) about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise—to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies—and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.
Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely—an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor—has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.
Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning is an electrifying debut.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set in modern-day India, Megha Majumdar’s powerful debut novel explores timely themes: the rise of nationalist politics and the way inequality makes our institutions unjust. But big topics aside, A Burning is simply a suspenseful and page-turning read that’s populated with vivid characters who imprint themselves on the imagination. Jivan, the only child of a couple who’ve endured crushing poverty their whole lives, hopes to turn her family’s fortunes around, leaving high school to take a reliable retail job. Smart and capable, Jivan’s also generous. She puts her education to good use by teaching English to Lovely, a hijra (transgender) woman who lives nearby in the same slum and dreams of becoming a movie star. But when Jivan is falsely accused of participating in a deadly terrorist attack, the two people best positioned to help her—her former pupil and her most supportive teacher—make self-serving decisions with catastrophic implications. We tore through this electric, fast-moving story.
In Majumdar's audacious debut, a politically conscious English tutor who works with an aspiring film actor is wrongfully accused of terrorism. After an ill-advised Facebook post criticizing the police's response to a train bombing in Bengal, Jivan, a Muslim, is charged with the attack. Jivan has an alibi; she was on her way to tutor Lovely, whose testimony might be able to save Jivan from execution. A right-wing party luminary, hoping to gain political mileage from the case, bribes one of Jivan's former teachers from grammar school in exchange for his false testimony about Jivan, and his lies in court lead to Jivan being jailed. A large portion of the chapters devoted to Jivan, told in the first person, come in the form of expository monologues to Purnendu, a reporter. Lovely's dialect-heavy passages speak to her difficult life as a hijra (a third gender in India), and her desire to become a star despite being marginalized. Majumdar expertly weaves the book's various points of view and plotlines in ways that are both unexpected and inevitable. This is a memorable, impactful work.
Very quick read
I enjoyed how the author used the different character's narratives rather than having chapters. A very sad tale of the probable reality in India.
Not a title I would have chosen, but it was for our book club and I'm glad it read it.
Boring, unrealistic, and tragic.
There are three main characters, and each has a life that follows a simplistic and unrealistic path in an impossibly short time.
I don’t want to provide any spoilers but the author provides an ending that is simplistically and unrealistically tragic, seemingly designed for effect. In fact the whole book just seemed false to me, and I don’t understand why it was so widely acclaimed.
Engaging writing, but too many clichés
The book, though written in a nice style, lacks substance. It simply consists of a long list of actions trying to convince the reader that most people in India are terrible. Even if I agreed with this message (which I don’t), this would have been tiresome.