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A Burning

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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  18,542 ratings  ·  2,652 reviews
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 e
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 2nd 2020 by Knopf
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 ·  18,542 ratings  ·  2,652 reviews


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chai ♡
find this review & others on my blog

At the start of Majumdar’s standout debut novel, Jivan, a young Muslim woman, makes a Facebook post that takes a jab at the government’s handling of a train bombing in Bengal. Someone hastens to whisper of it, and Jivan lands in a prison cell, charged with the attack before night finishes falling. Everyone, suddenly, had known her, everyone had heard her speak ill of her country, everyone had seen her in the train station; everyone is deranged with ang
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Roxane
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really liked this story. I wondered if the political ambition overshadowed the power of the prose.
_ngallagher
I've decided not to rate this one because although I think the stories/characters were interesting and thought provoking, I personally am not into political fiction. I think the storyline around Lovely was great -- I loved the transgender representation and her blossoming career but aside from that I couldn't really get into it.
Adam Dalva
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully plotted, ambitious debut novel by a writer with a lot to offer, the story of 3 lives intersecting around a single, harrowing lie. Majumdar takes major risks with a multi-perspective, voice driven novel whose politics often occur in the background, but her excellent plotting abilities kept me flying through this.
Elyse  Walters
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m glad I read this: Megha Majumdar’s debut novel.
It felt like the most advertised- promoted book of this summer - I needed to read what all the fuss about.

I’ve many memories of the year I spent living in India.
Memories of those ‘crowed trains’ too, stood out!!!
So....
It was easy to visualize the opening scene.....really frightening of how people could NOT get OUT....when flaming torches were burning them alive - almost instantly. There was almost no focus on the people who died from that horr
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Marchpane
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Burning begins with a conflagration. For the reader, this novel is a lit fuse: an exercise in tension, perfectly paced.

Majumdar covers a lot of ground in this short and deceptively simple novel, set in India in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. An earnest young woman accused of the crime; a schoolteacher dipping his toe into politics; and a Hijra actress in search of stardom are the main players.

Through subtle means, the characters are given distinctive voices. Lovely, the actress, has a f
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Diane S ☔
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 Majumbdar took on a huge challenge in this her first novel. How to show three different people and how they will compromise their consciences, truths in order to become someone. Contemporary India but the caste system is alive and well. To rise in status, they need a hand or a chance. A story told by three different narrators, one who makes what seems like an innocent mistake but has dire consequences. Beware of what you post on the internet or who you talk too. They may not be who you think ...more
Seemita
Jun 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Seemita by: Twitter
[A throbbing 3.5 stars.]

Words. I know they are potent; they can bind and heal, rejuvenate and transform. But, I also know, in equal measure, they can kill.

In ‘A Burning’, just a pale black string of words on a social media page makes a young Muslim girl, an enemy of the state, and takes her to the darks she had not felt even in the darkest corner of her dingy, tarp-roofed house in a Kolkata slum. A comment is all it takes for the 22 years of her life to be wiped clean off the slate with the pow
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Jill
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It all starts simply enough—an idealistic young Muslim girl uses her very first costly device with her own salary, a SmartPhone, to join in the conversation on Facebook. A vicious train attack by terrorists has just taken place and right afterwards, she posts an ill-advised comment.

With that propulsive opening, A Burning ignites a firestorm that asks searing questions: “Whose future is it? How far are we willing to go to take our place into a better life—be it political status, artistic fame, or
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Lisa
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.3] A Burning is a raging novel with a plot and characters there mainly to serve its point about injustice and corruption in modern India. Unlike most reviewers, I was disappointed. I found it disturbing... but thin. Actually, although lacking as a novel, I think it would make an excellent play.
Ron Charles
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, “A Burning,” is aptly named. This all-consuming story rages along, bright and scalding, illuminating three intertwined lives in contemporary India. Majumdar, who was raised in West Bengal before attending Harvard University and moving to New York, demonstrates an uncanny ability to capture the vast scope of a tumultuous society by attending to the hopes and fears of people living on the margins. The effect is transporting, often thrilling, finally harrowing. It’s no ...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A story may carry too many deeper thoughts and tell us so many crucial and important things with fewer words because some words weigh too much which directly aim our souls.Even we close our ears, if we are open minded, we can hear them through our hearts.

This book deals with so many sensitive issues such as injustice, corruption, Islamophobia, discrimination, hijraphobia, destructive effects of social media.

We have 3 main POVS: Jivan is young Muslim girl from the slums, dreaming of a better li
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Doug
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, rounded up.

Although compulsively readable (yay for short chapters!), with an interesting structure and plot, I came away a bit unsatisfied. I read a LOT of South Asian literature and am a huge Bollywood fan (my cats are even named Priyanka, Bipasha, Chandni and - may she rest in peace - Deepika), and this just seemed to be recycling things I had already read/seen, and felt somewhat simplistically pandering towards an American audience unfamiliar with India.

What I really liked was how each
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Fuzzydice108
When I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I had to make it a Book of the Month Club pick. I felt like this could be a story that I’ll really enjoy.

That was not the case. The whole story seemed to have a disorient cloud shrouding every chapter. The writing was extremely choppy and disconnected. It was painfully lacking detail, and I felt like I was only reading bits and pieces of a full story.

The characters’ lives didn’t really intertwine as described by the synopsis, in fact they seemed to h
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Jennifer Blankfein

A Burning by Megha Majumdar reads like a thriller as we witness an innocent Indian girl accused of terrorism in the aftermath of suspicious subway fires. Jivan lives in the slums of India with her parents, goes to school, and teaches Lovely, a hijra (transgender woman) across tow, how to read English. Jivan happened to be riding the subway during the time of the fires and made a facebook post about it. After getting little response to her first post, she wrote another criticizing the police and
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Carolyn
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful book that is short and concise but reads like an epic. I would have been happy if this novel were expanded to reveal more about the struggles facing the intriguing characters and the city in which they lived. This is a remarkably accomplished debut and I hope the author has plans for more books in the future. Told through the viewpoints of three fascinating and different people, what they have in common is a burning ambition to improve their lot in life in modern-day India.

J
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Matthew
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We all want to be more than what we are. Most of us, anyway. Oftentimes it’s an inherent trait, something prescribed at birth by our parents whose purpose it is to provide, to ensure our lives wind up better than theirs. Other times it’s learned through observation and experience; one simply wants more than the hand they’ve been dealt.

This is a generalization, sure, but you get what I’m saying. I was raised in a well-to-do, affluent suburb where seemingly all of my peers were born with silver s
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Michelle
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In politics, you will see, sometimes it feels that you are in charge of everything and everyone. But we can only guide them, inspire them. At the end of the day, are they our puppets? No. So what can we do if they raise their hand, if they decide to beat someone, if they feel angry?" PT Sir dislikes this justification. At the same time, he reaches desperately for the only relief he has felt since the massacre.

What an incredible debut. The writing in this was stunning and very, very moving. Timi
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Jenna | JennaStopReading
What a debut! This book packed a seriously powerful punch in such a short amount of time. While this is not the genre that I am typically drawn to, I really enjoyed this read.

What made this book unique was the very different voices of the three POV's. If I ever had to set the book down mid chapter, I very easily knew which character I was reading when I came back to the book. Their tones and personalities were easily perceptible through the writing, making this book about a heavy subject very re
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Prerna
Oct 18, 2020 rated it liked it
A Burning is a story of fiery agony - it outlines the plight of the marginalized in a country whose democratic power structures are being systematically redesigned to make way for majoritarian tyranny.

Jivan is a poor Muslim woman who lives in a dilapidated old house located in a slum. She works at a store in a nearby mall to make ends meet and support her family. While trying to wade through the dregs of society, she makes a single Facebook comment criticizing the government regarding their hand
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Carmel Hanes
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'd like to think this kind of thing doesn't happen. I'd like to think, if it does happen, that it happens places I'll never find myself. I'd like to think better of humanity and human nature. Unfortunately, this story mirrors the kind of injustice that happens all over our sad little world.

This novel tracks several people as they are caught up in an event that is bigger than any of them. It shows how even an innocent moment or impulsive act can become a thread that eventually trips us. It shows
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Barbara
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar is an illuminating story of India’s politics and social oppression and discriminations. In her work, she shows how Hindu nationalism is similar to white supremacy.

The novel has three narrators, each a part of oppression. Jivan, is a poor Muslim girl living in the slums, who has dreams of becoming middle class. Lovely is a hijra (a recognized gender in India that is nether male or female) who dreams of being an actress. Jivan taught Lovely English so she could better
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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
A quick, engrossing read. Government corruption and the worst parts of human nature are shown here.
Trudie
About halfway through this debut novel set in Kolkata, I was pretty sure I was going to set it aside.

It was only the knowledge of an impending book club discussion that kept me on track to finish it. That is rather a sad state of affairs for what is a fairly short, easily read novel. I surveyed all the glowing reviews and respect that both James Wood in The New Yorker and Parul Sehgal in The New York Times cannot both be wrong. However, this simply did not land for me.

After spending the better
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NILTON TEIXEIRA
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-5-stars
What a remarkable debut!
What a compelling read!
I was hooked from the beginning.
It took my breath away.
The author invested her heart in this. I could feel hers and the characters’ heartbeat in every page.
The story of 3 lightly connected characters in contemporary India and the unexpected events and fate was so realistic, so believable!
This novel is unpretentious, simply written and simply constructed, but gripping and moving. The chapters are short but intense, vivid. I could smell the food, t
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Sarah
May 11, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jivan is not a terrorist. However, this does not stop the Indian government arresting her for a vicious act of terrorism at a train station near her home. Their evidence against her? A Facebook comment and some private messages with a boy in a foreign country.

PT Sir is a teacher at one of the best schools for girls in the city. He feels insignificant and powerless until he accidentally becomes involved with personnel high up in a growing political party. He quickly becomes mixed up in shady pol
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Kasa Cotugno
This is a novel of today, a searing portrait of a land of millions through the intertwined stories of three representative individuals, all with modest aspirations. Central to the proceedings is Jivan, a young woman of the slums providing support to her family and hoping for a promotion to manager in a shop in a mall. Her former phys ed teacher, only identified as P.I. Sir, had seen her potential as above that of the other girls in the privileged school where she was a sort of scholarship studen ...more
Anthony
What a remarkably assured and powerfully written debut novel this is. I was utterly captivated from the first moment to the last, as Majumdar expertly wove her tightly plotted and deeply felt tale. The manner in which she convincingly alternates narrative voices from chapter to chapter is incredibly and authentically achieved, and her depiction of modern-day India, with all of its political and societal complexity, is intensely and vividly alive.

I’ve very much enjoyed some of the other novels I
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Kathleen
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jivan is a ‘disposable’ person. She is from the poor slums in Bengal. She is Muslim, when the political leaders are promoting a Hindu nationalist government. She is young and naïve, accepting Facebook friend requests from strangers, on her brand-new SmartPhone. So, when she happens to witness a group of men setting fire to a stalled train, while the police look on, she decides to post “If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean th ...more
Stacy
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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MEGHA MAJUMDAR was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book. Follow her on Twitter @MeghaMaj and Instagram @megha.maj

Articles featuring this book

There’s nothing like picking up a debut novel and feeling like you’ve found your new favorite author. As the season comes to a close, we...
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“Mother, do you grieve?
Know that I will return to you. I will be a flutter in the leaves above where you sit, cooking ruti on the stove. I will be the stray cloud which shields you from the days of sun. I will be the thunder that wakes you before rain floods the room.
When you walk to the market, I will return to you as footprint on the soil. At night, when you close your eyes, I will appear as impress on the bed.”
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“If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean, I wrote on Facebook, that the government is also a terrorist?” 9 likes
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