Seemita's Reviews > A Burning

A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
34622220
's review

liked it
bookshelves: asia, culture, debut, drama, family, fiction, india, monologue, politics, sharp_sword
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 powerful duster of sedition.

Keeping Jivan (which, ironically, means life) at the centre, the author draws two more characters, one each on the opposite side of the protagonist. Lovely, a transgender and PT Sir, a school teacher. Neither have a swell resume to grab a berth in the first row of life but they are trying hard. And when both are called to testify in Jivan vs The State case, they take opposite stands and see their destinies unspool in an entirely different air.

An undercurrent of urgency keeps the book going, as if slackening the pace might make the reader look away from the plight of Jivan. Her no-nonsense account of her life in the prison gingerly pricks like that rough, ordinary stone that continues to give scratches on rub until its edges are all blunt and toothless. That even a prison is not without its hierarchies, the press is not without its politics and the court is not without its masters is deftly pinned all over the body of the book, making it bear a look of the haggard, drooping a little every day. Imparting a shining white to Lovely’s and PT Sir’s dreams by snatching it from Jivan’s many skies turns this work into a window into the times we live in - freedom of speech and privacy being routinely sacrificed at the altar of majoritarianism and religious fanaticism.
’The light alerts me when morning comes. Now that I know it is morning, I practice the yoga I learned long ago, on rainy days in school. But my body is reluctant. It adheres, like a block of concrete, to the floor. There is noting supple in my arms. They are twigs, waiting to snap. When I look down, my legs are dry and scaly, white with skin that is neither alive nor willing to shed.’
The pages of the register at the morgue flutter. But life goes on. And in between this space, words lie, bidding their time.
69 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Burning.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

June 22, 2020 – Started Reading
June 22, 2020 – Shelved
June 24, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jonfaith (new)

Jonfaith That was certainly riveting. Cheers.


Seemita Jonfaith wrote: "That was certainly riveting. Cheers."

Thanks, Jon. How are you doing? I hope all is good at your end.


message 3: by Jonfaith (new)

Jonfaith Ongoing pandemic anxiety and an overdue racial reckoning have taken a toll. We are good otherwise.


Seemita Jonfaith wrote: "Ongoing pandemic anxiety and an overdue racial reckoning have taken a toll. We are good otherwise."

Glad to know you guys are doing good.


message 5: by Glenn (last edited Jun 26, 2020 07:31PM) (new)

Glenn Russell Excellent, Seemita. You catch the pace and soul of this tale in a few brief strokes.

I read a glowing review of the novel in The New Yorker written by James Wood.


message 6: by Sookie (new)

Sookie sounds like making of a web series


Seemita Glenn wrote: "Excellent, Seemita. You catch the pace and soul of this tale in a few brief strokes.

I read a glowing review of the novel in The New Yorker written by James Wood."


So good to hear from you, Glenn! I hope all is well at your end.

I am glad you found my review interesting. To be candid though, it didn't live upto the hype for me. I gave an extra 0.5 for the timeliness of the theme.


Seemita Sookie wrote: "sounds like making of a web series"

Haha... Yeah. She certainly seems to have that thought lodged somewhere in her mind while writing it.

And it is good to hear from you, Sookie. Hope you and yours are keeping well.


message 9: by Laysee (new)

Laysee Seemita, it is refreshing to read your reviews again and luxuriate in your elegant prose. This is beautifully written, as always.


Seemita Laysee wrote: "Seemita, it is refreshing to read your reviews again and luxuriate in your elegant prose. This is beautifully written, as always."

Many thanks, Laysee. You are very generous, as per usual.


message 11: by Ilse (new) - added it

Ilse As ever you create beauty with your words, even when the book didn't live up entirely to your expectations. Your concluding lines sent a chill of darkness to my spine.


Seemita Ilse wrote: "As ever you create beauty with your words, even when the book didn't live up entirely to your expectations. Your concluding lines sent a chill of darkness to my spine."

Thank you, dear Ilse. I am sorry the concluding lines were bereft of much light. But I suppose, these dark patches need to be highlighted so we can shine light on places that matter.


Elyse  Walters Fabulous review Seemita!!! 💕


Elyse  Walters Now that I read it -- I wanted more time to 'slow' down --
Hope you are doing well? -- and that you -and your lovely mum are both handling these days okay! xoxo
I'm ready for you to COME BACK! :) xoxo


Seemita Elyse wrote: "Fabulous review Seemita!!! 💕"

Elyse wrote: "Now that I read it -- I wanted more time to 'slow' down --
Hope you are doing well? -- and that you -and your lovely mum are both handling these days okay! xoxo ..."


Thank you, dear Elyse. You say it right; perhaps the pace robs the story of its softer, more compassionate side, making for a reading that near blazes and doesn't stay for long. I loved your take on it.

And mamma and I are doing fine; thanks so much for asking and the warm invitation :) I hope Paul, you and your daughters are doing well too.


message 16: by Greta (new)

Greta You transport so much emotion with your words in this review, that I can only hope that the book does it just as well! Thank you for the wonderful review Seemita!


Seemita Greta wrote: "You transport so much emotion with your words in this review, that I can only hope that the book does it just as well! Thank you for the wonderful review Seemita!"

Thank you for reading, Greta. The book has its hits and misses but it covers some important themes of relevance today, and that is a commendable step forward.


message 18: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Beautifully poetic and insightful review! Been really curious about this one, thanks!


Seemita s.penkevich wrote: "Beautifully poetic and insightful review! Been really curious about this one, thanks!"

Thanks, Steven. This is brilliant in patches. I will be keen to see what you make of it.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Laird Your review is rich and entertaining; better than the book looks. Hope you are well.


back to top