Cover Image: A Burning

A Burning

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Member Reviews

A Burning 🔥  tells the story of Jivan, a young Muslim woman from Kolkata who is eager to make a voice out of herself and climb the stairs to succes
 
Along with PT Sir, who was her gym teacher in high-school and Lovely, a hijra (person of an intersex community) who wants to become a Bollywood superstar, are playing an important roll into each other's life. 

Up to the moment of a terrorist attack, more specifically a firebomb in a train 🚆 where hundreds of people are dead or badly injured 

Being shocked and angry about the incident, Jivan makes an angry Facebook post, targeting the high authories 

What do you think happened next? 

Someone threatened to whisper about it, all while Jivan lands in a prison cell being charged with the attack! 
All in a couple of hours 

(This is not a spoiler)! 

Everything changes, everyone is deranged with anger, demanding justice for the people in the train 

This book speaks by itself what our society's problems are nowadays and I truly encourage you to pick this book and find out for yourself what Jivan and her family were feeling during her incarceration time 

When she finds out that living in a country with so much corruption, unjust legal system and religious bias, she will even start questioning herself: Am I innocent? And if I am, how can I prove it?
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This is a book with a powerful political message. It took me a while to get into it, but once I hit about half way I couldn’t put it down. I was desperately waiting for redemption and a happy ending. I started off certain that it would happen and then slowly lost hope for the main character Jivan as the story progressed.
I really enjoyed it, particularly the lightness of Lovely’s aspirations. I felt that the characters were beautifully woven and the storyline moved quickly (after the first quarter).
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I absolutely loved this book, would highly recommend it and will definitely be promoting it in our library.
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A poignant story set in contemporary India with three narrators. In the age of social media, where one comment can grow arms and legs. A post by one of our narrators Jivan does just that, creating the plot for the rest of the novel. 

Majumdar explores corruption, bribery, class, ethnicity, gender, politics and education. Despite the plethora of issues interwoven in the story it reads as natural and authentic. The writing is poetic, in places even melodic. 

A fantastic debut novel, I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook, it’s incredibly well narrated and engaging. 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Audio UK and NetGalley for the audio-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Compelling, emotional and very real, this book takes a look at very different lives in India, all interconnected by one event. 

Jivan, the central protagonist, a young woman living in relative poverty trying to better her life and support her family, is wrongly accused of being involved in a terrorist attack on a train in her village. As someone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, she is caught up in a media storm and soon enough arrested and tried for her 'crime'. There is no hard evidence against her, but the people who surround her could surely help her out of this situation. 

In fact, the other voices include Jivan's high school PE teacher, known as PT Sir, who is himself climbing a social ladder to make a name for himself in politics, but faces a moral dilemma as his climb to the top requires him to step on some innocent people. 
Aspiring actress Lovely, a hijra, learns English under Jivan's tutelage and hopes to one day escape the slums and shine under the bright lights of the film industry. 

They both have to decide where their loyalties lie, and weigh up saving an innocent life with the desire to move forward with their own. 

A story of corruption and the power of circumstances. 
The narrators did an excellent job at bringing the cast of characters to life and portraying the wide range of emotions in this very moving moral tale.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for letting me access an advance copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.
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A very gripping novel and a must-read. Set in a contemporary India, it shows an epic scale of prejudice and corruption still dominating the country. I enjoyed the distinctively different narratives. It was entertaining, thoughtful and heartbreaking.
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An unforgettable debut novel, observing the impact of a terrorist attack in a slum in Kolkata. The audiobook is a powerful listen, drawing together the voices of the protagonists,  who each dream of a better future and whose loves are irrevocably changed and impacted by the devastating aftermath of the attack. Jivan, a teenage girl  who dreams of escape through education; Lovely, a hijra dreams of Bollywood and PT Sir, Jivan's gym teacher and member of a rising Hindu political party.  The different POVs in the narrative flow well together, piecing together interlacing stories.  This is a short, but impacted read, providing an evocative insight into class and gender divide, power and corruption and injustice in India. It is an intense read, seeking to open our eyes to the dangers of politics that are increasingly veering  towards extremism and violent nationalism and the consequences on ordinary peoples. It reveals the injustices and suspicions that continue to surround women and transgender women. 
Jivan is mistakenly judged as a terrorist following one misjudged remark on social media that precedes the terrorist attack. She is threatened and beaten to confess, fearing physical and sequel abuse. Lovely and PT Sir hold the ability to help Jivan, buy at what personal cost? A compelling read/ listen that lives up to the current hype.
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I really enjoyed this one and learning about the challenges and political and priveliged difficulties within India.

I enjoyed the characters and the narration (I listened on audio).

Would highly recommend.
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If you don't like politics/corruption this possibly isn't the book for you. 

This book is written with 3 main characters, at different ages, social status, beliefs (religion). The three main characters help to support the topics of the book which are corruption, discrimination, injustice, politics, effects of social media. 

Jivan who is the main character is accused of a crime she didn't commit, and the reason shes choosen as the criminal is because she is muslim, one comment on social media, and chat with one friend on social media. That one comment starts a whole spiral but exposes the corruption etc through her gym teacher who is the other main character who is trying to climb the political ladder.

You do get a feel for it being set in india, the narration of the audiobook is so well done and easy to follow which character we are hearing from.

It would have been good if we got more insight into the thoughts of the characters, but overall is a though provoking book, especially as social media plays a large part of our lives.
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I found this to be a thoroughly engaging novel, woven together from the sorts of ethical dilemmas one might normally associate with a writer like Durenmatt. 

The storyline itself follows the fortunes of a young woman who is arrested for a terrorist atrocity she did not commit, as well as several other characters whose lives have intersected with hers both before and after the attack. In sheer plot terms, it is a compelling, sometimes harrowing, account of corruption in various guises. There are twists and turns, and I was particularly drawn to the storyline of the character called Lovely.

What impressed me the most about this novel was the way the author captures and renders the different voices of each character. There is enormous musicality in their turns of phrase and accents and this felt enormously authentic.

I could well imagine this as a Netflix series or film.

With many thanks to the published and Netgalley for letting me see a copy of this title.
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A Burning is an intense contemporary set in India, featuring a cast of characters that pick apart the themes of justice, corruption, and what people will do to capture a better life for themselves. This beautifully written story was harrowing at times; it's definitely a book that will be imprinted on my mind for years to come. I listened to the audiobook and found that the narrators brought life to these characters, it definitely added to my experience.

A Burning has a large scope, both describing the small interpersonal conflicts and large scale country-wide tensions. This isn't a particularly fast-paced book, but it has a lot of elements that people who read thrillers might find enjoyable. Especially as political tensions rise, and Jivan's court date comes closer, I couldn't put it down. There were also some very horrifying moments of intense violence and anger. One thing to note is that the violence is never gratuitous. Majumdar does everything with strict purpose, and that means these violent scenes are even harder hitting. This book covers so many intense, important topics and easily demonstrates how they impact individual people, as well as society as a whole.

A Burning follows the lives of three characters. Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums who is arrested on suspicion of committing a terrorist attack due to a Facebook comment. She was found to be talking to a known terrorist recruiter and was there when the attack occurred. So, despite her innocence, that is enough for a country to rally around her guilt. PT Sir was Jivan's gym teacher, who becomes involved with the BJP at a political rally when the train was late. As he becomes more wrapped in the party, his power and influence grows, but at what cost? Finally, there's Lovely, a Hijra who dreams of becoming an actress, and who Jivan was teaching English to. The stories of these three people come together around Jivan's court case and ask what people will do in pursuit of their dreams and aspirations.

Each of the three characters had incredibly unique voices. It probably helped that I was listening to an audiobook with multiple narrators, but I truly felt these characters leaping from the page. The narrative that I enjoyed the most was Lovely's. She was just so optimistic, hopeful, and genuinely a joy to be around. She's had a difficult life, but she's so determined to reach towards her dreams.

PT Sir was also a particularly interesting character to follow. I wouldn't say I liked him; he was incredibly unlikeable. However, watching how much he longed for power and respect, and how he'd do despicable things to achieve those goals was interesting. He doesn't start aligned to his cause, and the slow disintegration of his morals was incredibly sinister character development. Majumdar showed how easy it is for people to be manipulated with promises of a better future.


The political analysis of extremism, justice, power, poverty, and corruption is particularly relevant at the moment. It's difficult to ignore rising political tensions around the globe. I especially enjoyed the discussion of how ordinary people can get caught up in these extremist movements, how ordinary people will dismiss logic in the face of an easy scapegoat for the difficulties they face in their lives, how promises of a better life can manipulate. Majumdar doesn't point at extremists and paint them all as evil, but instead demonstrates that they are usually regular people in desperate circumstances. Does that mean that their actions are justifiable? Not at all, but understanding why people fall into extremism is useful in preventing it.

Overall, A Burning was an incredibly thought-provoking and compelling read, with interesting, multi-dimensional characters that truly felt alive. I would especially recommend the audiobook.
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A searing, political book. A Burning is a poignant examination of corruption, power and money. Set in India but equally applicable worldwide in its criticism of politicians, political parties and the people they sacrifice in order to gain power. This is a brilliant book which I’ll definitely be recommending.
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I was highly anticipating this novel, and was thrilled to get approved for the audiobook too, as I think that enhances my reading experience.
It drew me in pretty quickly, following Jivan, a woman who is accused of a terrorist attack on a train, as well as Lovely, the woman who Jivan is teaching English, and PT Sir, a teacher.
I was really getting engaged with the story but I lost interest half way through, particularly with PT Sir's chapters and at 80% I still struggled to concentrate on his parts and was unsure of his connection to Jivan's story.
I honestly expected to be blown away by this book and I wasn't, sadly. The plot needed more substance for me, but I do believe it showed the prejudice around suspected terrorists in this country and that makes it wholly relevant.
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An interesting read - the three characters give their viewpoints on the events following a terrorist bombing on a train. Unfortunately the poor and socially displaced come out with little control over their lives and are political gun fodder.  The third character gets involved with the political opposition, and having done their dirty work, gets the life he has always wanted.

Most definitely not a fairy story as the happy ending does not materialise and it has left me rather shocked and battered. I don't know anything about India's society and political system so do not know how close to the truth this story is, however it is a book that has made an impact.
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This has been given the caption of being about the status of Muslims in India but I read it more as a reflection on class and gender in a Caste-led culture where extreme poverty is still more common than it should be.
In England we have a knowledge of the religious conflict in Ireland and the political divisions between Ireland and England.  So, we have something to help us compare this situation to, but we do not understand what real poverty does to people, the potato famine and worse are not part of our taught history but we all watched the news, saw the bombings, had some experience of the outcomes.  We do not really get a good idea of the beginnings, a knowledge of why.
In South Africa they had the colour divisions of Apartheid which you can use to give you insight into other poverty driven conflicts.  These have been written about and publicised across the world because of some of the strong voices involved.
Very little has been shared about the division that is life in India based on your gender, ethnicity, genetic family line.  Why? The author shows us that those who have, have power over most walks of life in India, including the media.  
The story is told in first person by three main characters and in authentic voices which made it more real for me.
Jivan, is the only daughter of a poor couple who live in a city slum.  Her father is injured and unable to work as a rikshaw driver.  Her mother makes breakfasts for others in the slum.  Jivan is fortunate, on a chance encounter, she gains a scholarship to a good school and a teacher there, PT Sir, offers her food when he feels sorry for her.  The author just wants us to understand the world Jivan is in, that PT Sir’s not self-less when we hear him telling himself that she will be a famous sports star and give his work meaning.  When she leaves, being a teenager of 14, without saying goodbye to him, he resents her and turns on her when she needs him most.
Lovely is the third voice, she is a transvestite, called Hijra in India, who are sent to live in their own section of the city and not accepted as part of general society.  Jivan takes pity on Lovely’s wish to become a movie star and starts to teach her English.
Jivan is a silly teenager who has not learnt about social media being something that can cause you problems and after a bombing on a train, which she witnessed and ran from she makes a comment that could be considered treasonous.
As there is no one else they can find, the bombers having gotten away, Jivan is targeted for her Facebook comment.  She is used as a pawn and a scapegoat by an ambitious female politician who manipulates the situation to get elected to office, the ambitious PT Sir (he is never named, perhaps to emphasise how little value he has and when we leave him at the end of the story he is in a small cupboard which he calls his office, as the secretary of Education for his party).  A journalist appears to offer kindness and repays Jivan by sensationalising her story for gain, both commercial and political. Even Lovely puts her own fame before Jivan’s life.

The impact of Jivan being targeted is shown when poverty-stricken villagers, who now believe the bombers were Muslim, brutally kill a Muslim neighbour and his family after a rumour.  All of this revolves around Jivan but she has no voice in what happens to her or because of her situation. The author has us follow all of this through the three voices to emphasis the lack of value placed on Jivan’s life as decisions are made around her.
The author is skilled and uses the character of Jivan, together with one incident in a village and her loss of a headscarf, at the end to express that she is a Muslim and it is that reason for her persecution.  I felt it was only one thread of many in the novel.  As a British Muslim I focused on what I found I could relate to.  This is an alien world to me.  
I remain horrified by the events portrayed in the novel, but I recommend it as it makes you appreciated how blessed we are.
I was given a free audiobook by netgalley.com for my fair and honest review.
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This is a deeply upsetting novel yet one I would urge people to read. It is a very impressive first novel from the author. The exploration of the decisions characters make that effect not only thier lives but that create ripples that they can't even know about, is very well observed. The sense of place is absolute. It's heartbreaking, but I would definitely recommend it.
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A burning tells the story of personal benefit versus doing what we know is right. The story is told from three separate points of view: Jivan, a teenage girl who lives in a Kolkata slum; Lovely, a hijra whose dream is to become an actress; and PT Sir, Jivan’s gym teacher who joins a rising Hindu party movement. By a cruel twist Jivans fate becomes juxtaposed with that of Lovely and PT Sir. This story is heart wrenching, each person is deeply flawed yet their point of view can be understand. Highly recommended. I listened to the audiobook of this, and found the narration really good, especially appreciating the fact that it was told by three separate narrators, which made it very easy to follow.
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Oh my how I wanted to take the characters in this book aside and give them advice as how not to react! It is the story set in a village in India where quite frankly those telling the story (there are three voices) are niave to the way the state and thus the world behaves and rules. It is an interesting book for that fact alone. Not my favourite book of the year but one with a voice and a really good story to tell.
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This book was good. I might've thought it was even better had it not been quite so hype

Using three different narrators we catch a glimpse of the complicated nature of the world we live in. While the particulars of the story are, it could be argued, unique to the setting the wider issues of corruption, personal politics, social media etc are all to relevant no matter where we live. To tell ourselves the lies that things like what happen in the book couldn't happen here is to ignore the fact that it can and does
 
I very much enjoyed the narration from all three voice actors and I look forward to what Majumdar writes next. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Megha Majumdar's searing debut shines a burning torch on life in Kolkata - from the village slums to the highest political office. At its centre is a heartbreaking story about the fate of one girl but the actions of the supporting characters, in all their complexity, have a demonstrably massive impact. Through Jivan, PT Teacher and Lovely we are able to consider the ruthlessness of politicians, the intoxication of approval and acceptance, the surreptitious nature of manipulation as it occurs in imperceptible increments and plain old survival. My favourite character is Lovely who is Hijra (trans). She is the most loveable and relatable trans witness since Peter Capaldi played the unforgettable Vera Reynolds in Prime Suspect. In this novel we see people who appear to be good doing bad things. Majumdar shows us both sides of the coin, humanising selfish choices and provoking debate which makes "A Burning" an ideal bookclub choice. Themes also include poverty, kindness and charity, corruption, terrorism, religious intolerance, tradition, superstition, vigilantism and violence. These elements are often revealed (and expanded upon) via the interludes which I thought was a useful tool. I listened to the audiobook which was brilliantly narrated by Vikas Adam; Priya Ayyar; Deepti Gupta; Ulka Mohanty; Soneela Nankani; Neil Shah. I loved the authenticity they brought to the story.
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