A Burning

A Burning

Book - 2020
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"After a fiery attack on a train leaves 104 people dead, the fates of three people become inextricably entangled. Jivan, a bright, striving woman from the slums looking for a way out of poverty, is wrongly accused of planning the attack because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir, a slippery gym teacher from Jivan's former high school, has hitched his aspirations to a rising right wing party, and his own ascent becomes increasingly linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely, a spirited, impoverished, relentlessly optimistic hjira, who harbors dreams of becoming a Bollywood star, can provide the alibi that would set Jivan free - but her appearance in court will have unexpected consequences that will change the course of all of their lives. A novel about fate, power, opportunity, and class; about innocence and guilt, betrayal and love, and the corrosive media cycle that manufactures falsehoods masquerading as truths--A Burning is a debut novel of exceptional power and urgency, haunting and beautiful, brutal, vibrant, impossible to forget"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2020
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780525658696
Characteristics: 293 pages ; 22 cm


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CircMary Feb 22, 2021

Although the chapters are short, the author succeeds in her portrayals of the main characters. I found myself deeply invested in all three. But I found the story so depressingly familiar that I'm not sure I can recommend it. Proceed with caution.

Feb 18, 2021

Didn't finish.

LPL_MaryW Jan 22, 2021

In the beginning moments of this novel, terrorists set fire to a train in modern India. Jivan, a young woman, later posts about it on Facebook, equating police inaction to government terrorism. In the middle of the night, she is arrested. PT Sir was Jivan’s P.E. teacher before she dropped out of school after 10th grade. Unappreciated and power-hungry, he eventually finds himself in the inner circle of the government’s opposition party nearing an election. Lovely is a hijra, a transgender woman and a member of a community of trans and intersex people. She’s a talented actress on the hunt for her breakout role, and she’s learning English from Jivan to become more marketable. The three characters collide amid Jivan’s trial.

Wonderfully read by a full cast, Megha Majumdar’s A Burning is especially relevant in the age of highly-politicized social media and government extremism.

JCLJenV Jan 07, 2021

This story-driven novel reads like a classic. Three characters from an Indian slum are followed as their lives change and their moral integrity is challenged.

Nov 29, 2020

Recommended by Washington Post. Social media post results in a woman being labeled a terrorist

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Aug 03, 2020

Three interwoven narratives describe the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Fascinating and not particularly hopeful...but worth reading and digesting.

Jul 29, 2020

A simple story with profound implications. A young girl brought up struggling in poverty is jailed for a crime she didn't commit. Those who had a place in her life chose money and fame through deception of truth. Throw in social media influence, divergent economic status, and gender identity and you have an intensely compelling story.

Jul 14, 2020

This is an overtly political book about inequality and subjugation of the Muslim minority by the Hindus in power in India. It tells the story through the lives of four different characters. There is a lot of heartache and suffering in this book, and it was a powerful experience to read it now when our own country is also suffering with political and cultural divisions. Perhaps we can learn ways to solve our problems through art such as this book that shines a light on problems in other countries, as well as our own.

Jun 14, 2020

Short and depressing, but I fear a very honest look at politics and justice in India. One good thing about 2020 is that it is filled with outstanding debut novels. Picked by Jenna Bush Hager as her June book club pick. I read it as America protests the George Floyd killing, its an interesting contrast to the arrest of an innocent Muslim girl implicated in the burning of a train by a terrorist group. Following three people—the girl, her P.E teacher and a transvestite who the girl was helping to learn English, you know the girl is doomed, but you keep hoping. This story is short, and to say more about the plot would ruin the book. Bush Hager did an excellent job picking book for this month.


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Jun 10, 2020

“Immersive…masterly… the elements of a thriller are transmuted into prismatic portraiture… A Burning has a similar urgency of appeal [to Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.] Its characters are at the very front of the stage, and we can feel their breath… Her spare plot moves with arrowlike determination…I can’t remember when I last read a novel that so quickly dismantled the ordinary skepticism that attends the reading of made-up stories. Early Naipaul comes to mind as a precursor, and perhaps Akhil Sharma’s stupendously vivid novel “Family Life.”… It’s only at the end of this brief, brave novel that one becomes fully aware of how broad its judgments have been, how fierce and absolute its condemnations. Through the gaps that open up among and behind these three characters, a large Indian panoply emerges.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker


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