A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!
A New York Times Notable Book
For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel 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.
In this National Book Award Longlist honoree and “gripping thriller with compassionate social commentary” (USA Today), 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 has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary 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.
Phenomal insight to a corrupted government and the inequities of the poor
A woman, who was born a man had fought her way to a better life, working hard to help her parents out of the slums and hoping to become an actress. Along the way, she posts a politically inappropriate message on FB and is soon taken into custody and blamed for a horrific burning of a train and it’s passengers death by throwing fire into their compartments ultimately killing over 100 people.
She is innocent yet the police and political unrest in the county needs someone to blame. After a harrowing unfair and unjust one sided trial she is sentenced to death. Those who could have saved her were bullied by the government, their own self preservation becoming a priority and others were bought off by officials. It is a terribly difficult story to read, yet resonated loudly and had similar parallels to corrupt governments, politicians and police authorities not just in India but in our own country as well. Well written and the heartbreaking emotional connection the reader feels for all the characters is due to this authors skills and talent to not only make her characters human but to find and fully feel compassion for each of them. Well done!!