A Burning by Megha Majumdar


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.

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 humour–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.

Trigger Warnings:

Terrorism, Police Brutality, Political Corruption, Transphobia/Homophobia, Sexism, Islamophobia, Violence/Rioting.

The next time it rains, students and teachers walk down the lane, clean and dry, while districts of the city drown.

Megha Majumdar, A Burning.

There isn’t a lot of the synopsis which I feel is a good reflection on what A Burning is. I would not class it as a ‘thriller’, as – though there are tense scenes – the narrative is relatively fluid in approach, there’s nothing to shock or scare. (Although the actions and choices made might surprise you.) I don’t agree that there’s a ‘breakneck pace’, it felt like a gentle read, which was a stark contrast from what was taking place within the narrative. However, I would agree there is something extraordinary about this novel.

A Burning is voiced by three distinct personalities, with a smattering of additional perspectives for narrative development and context, which present a cruel/borderline dystopic world the audience will recognise. Each of the characters are unlikeable (in their own way) and wholly honest about their ambitions. How far would you go to rise?

For some of these characters, it’s incredibly easy to step on others to get ahead. For some, it’s the small justifications that appear more sinister. I enjoyed the philosophical nature of this novel, especially at a time when Alt-Right propaganda is rife, in both the Western and Eastern nations. It’s an interesting read, and certainly a book I would recommend to readers who enjoyed Khaled Hosseini or Markus Zusak.

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy, click here.

Similar Posts