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A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Literary fiction

A Burning

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Megha Majumdar, on your first book!

by Megha Majumdar

Quick take

A careless social media comment casts three characters into a web of violence, politics, and tragedy in India.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

Why I love it

Jenna Bush Hager
Co-host, TODAY with Hoda & Jenna

When I first read this devastatingly beautiful story, I was immediately struck by the author’s voice. Majumdar writes with the kind of sharp eloquence that makes it difficult to believe this slim novel is her debut. This is one of those sparse, carefully crafted books in which every word truly matters.

Set in contemporary India, this book tells the plight of three unique characters. There’s Jivan, a brilliant young Muslim girl living in the slums; Lovely, an exuberant aspiring actress; and PT Sir, a gym teacher with desperate aspirations for success. After a tragic terrorist attack, these characters find their lives entangled. Themes of fate and class, corruption and justice abound as A Burning poses the question: Who do we stand by when the worst happens? And what do we stand for?

Some people may question why I chose such a heartbreaking story at this time, but I’m thrilled to be helping to introduce such a powerful new voice! Majumdar’s book will transport you to an unknown destination this summer, even when the thought of travel seems impossible. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with the culture, not to mention the unforgettable characters, depicted in A Burning—just as I did.

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Synopsis

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 humor—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.

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Preview

Get an early look from the first pages of A Burning.

Member thoughts

All (8410)
All (8410)
Love (2417)
Like (4591)
Dislike (1402)
8561 ratings
  • 28% Love
  • 54% Like
  • 16% Dislike
  • Lynbrook , NY

    I found “A Burning” to be even more powerful than I thought it would be. Majumdar weaves a tale of how decisions and society’s perspective and agenda can greatly impact an unsuspecting persons fate.

  • Yucaipa, CA

    It is beautifully written and I love all the characters’ storylines intertwine. I liked how it showed corruption not only in the courthouses but even in the political parties. Jivan was my favorite. 

  • Kaneohe, HI

    This book will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Majumdar doesn’t shy away from our baser instincts in a dog eat dog world, while the rare bright lights of kindness shine brilliantly.

  • Columbia, MO

    This book brought powerful emotions to me. From pain to pride, each character’s development brought various challenges. Their connection to one another commented on society’s power over individuals.

  • Colorado Springs , CO

    What made this a “love” for me was the unabashed storytelling that did not try to tie everything into a tidy, pretty bow. The story is not about justice and you won’t find it in Majumdar’s tale.

  • GRASS VALLEY, CA

    I didn’t love this at first. The more I think about it, the more I understand how important abs prescient the subject matter is. I enjoyed the intersection of the three main characters. It was tragic

  • Delmar, NY

    This book will sit with me for a while. Tragic & powerful & illustrative of how quickly someone’s fate can turn. Powerful reminder of current politics in India through individual fictional narratives.

  • Salt Lake City , UT

    This book will sit with me. The intersection of fate, political corruption fueled by self promotion, and society woven together in a hauntingly beautiful way. I’m still thinking about Jivan. Must read

  • Minneapolis, MN

    Whoaaaaa. Its so intense. I havent felt that much passion about a books unfolding in a very long time. Once you get used to the broken English, the author takes you to a place like you’ve never been

  • Chicago, IL

    Beautiful telling of three unique characters who’s lives are all spiraling in different directions that they cannot control. There are a lot of shocking parallels between this story and our reality.

  • Jamaica Plain, MA

    While simple at the surface, this novel digs much deeper by observing the nuanced intersections and impacts our lives have on one another. A distressing and captivating political narrative in our era.

  • Tacoma, WA

    The main characters are people you know, thrust into bad circumstances that are unfortunately not far fetched. When they face moments of trail they act as regular, flawed people usually do. Very good!

  • Stafford , VA

    This book is a very strong choice to read now. It deals with the moral and ethical choices 3 characters make and the ripple effects that are their outcome. A bit deep but this book NEEDS to be read.

  • Howell, MI

    I loved how the characters were presented to you and you weren't directly told how to feel about them. They all feel justified in what they do to get ahead. You are left to draw your own conclusions

  • Avon, CT

    This was a good read. I read it pretty quickly- just 2 days. Once I picked it up I didn’t want to put it down. It evokes many emotions and you really feel the emotions of the different characters.

  • FPO, AE

    This was a tragedy. Watching Jivan struggle through a bloated and corrupt justice system as everyone in her life failed her was hard. That said, her story and that of Lovely and PT Sir was compelling.

  • New Roads, LA

    Riveting from the get-go, this debut is at times both heartbreaking and hilarious, but undeniably thought-provoking and inspiring, leaving readers feeling as if anything is possible, even in tragedy.

  • Atlanta, GA

    A beautifully written, tragic story of injustice. The kind of book that will have you crying and loving and hating characters and your heart breaking. Eye-opening view of different cultures and voices

  • Tampa, FL

    In loving this book, I was frustrated by society and the political manipulation. It evoked strong feelings for all three characters: PT Sir-disgust, Lovely-hope and struggle, and Jivan-anger/sadness.

  • Layton, UT

    Written in short chapters, this story packs a big punch as it illustrates the consequences of small everyday choices. Exploring class and power dynamics, corruption, and prioritizing our own ambitions

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