A Burning

- Megha Majumdar


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.



“You smell like smoke,” my mother said to me.


enjoyable/easy to read:

For all my life, everybody is believing that I am having a direct line to god, but I am knowing the truth. Whenever I am calling god, her line is busy.

It was impossible to put this down. The narratives of Jivan, Lovely, and PT Sir flow together to tell an overwhelmingly powerful story about the true cost of striving to have more. Whether it's wanting to move out of the slums and into the middle class, wanting to be an actress and accepted as a woman, or wanting to be powerful and respected, the three main characters here make choices to achieve their goals that have deadly consequences.

Jivan is sweet and naive. She has an admirable goal of raising her family out of poverty and even charitably spends some of her time teaching English to Lovely, a transgender woman who dreams of becoming an actress. Lovely is strong and unbending, always working towards her dreams and ignoring the uninvited insults she receives on a daily basis, meeting them with kind politeness. PT Sir is a physical education teacher who is overly sensitive, always seeing the unintended slight and taking it personally. He stumbles upon a political rally and slowly, one step at a time finds himself following an unexpected path.

Where Jivan and Lovely captured my heart, PT Sir made me so frustrated. He was selfish and his self-aggrandizing behaviour was infuriating; it was not surprising to see someone so unworthy be given more and more power but it was certainly exasperating.

Even though he is a fictional character, one can only hope he is forever haunted by those hurt by his actions. While I found myself able to forgive Lovely for turning her back on Jivan, I couldn’t say the same for PT Sir. Lovely had no real power, she couldn’t do anything to save Jivan from her fate and was smart to promote herself while she was in the spotlight. PT Sir on the other hand, actively robbed Jivan of her only hope because he wanted a job. Super disgusting human behaviour.

This one is definitely worth a read. I was transplanted into another world and another culture. The characters and the setting were vivid and realistic. By the end, I felt I really knew these three POV characters and the world they inhabited.


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