Megha Majumdar’s debut novel A BURNING is an urgent story of class, fate, corruption, and justice

By Coll Rowe | July 23 2020 | Common ReadsLiterature

A Burning is a 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 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.


Praise for A Burning

“Riveting. . . . This is a novel of our pandemic times, an exploration of precarity in all its forms. . . . Majumdar excels at depicting the workings of power on the powerless. . . . Fate has rarely been so many-faced, so muscular, so mercurial, or so mesmerizing as it is in A Burning.” —The New York Times Book Review [cover]

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is quietly beautiful and devastating. Its tone and pacing are measured perfectly. It is as funny as it is sad. This book won’t let you go, and you won’t want it to end.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There

A Burning is an excellently crafted, utterly thrilling novel full of characters that I won’t soon forget. Megha Majumdar writes about the ripple effects of our choices, the interconnectedness of our humanity, with striking beauty and clarity.” —Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

“Majumdar’s outrage is matched only by her sympathy for these ordinary people. . . . [A Burning] is a damning critique of a culture that generates constant upheaval but no systemic change.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

A Terrorist Attack Sparks the Plot of Megha Majumdar’s Powerful Debut Novel via New York Times

A Facebook Post Lands an Innocent Woman in Jail in this Riveting Debut Novel via New York Times Book Review

A Debut Novel’s Immersive Urgency via The New Yorker

In ‘A Burning,’ Striving, Dreaming and Joking In the Face of Oppression via NPR


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