A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation.
On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing…
‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’
Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed for ever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack.
Jivan – a poor, young, Muslim girl, who dreams of going to college – faces a possible death sentence after being accused of collaborating with the terrorists. Lovely – an exuberant hijra who longs to be a Bollywood star – holds the alibi that can set Jivan free, but telling the truth will cost her everything she holds dear. PT Sir – an opportunistic gym teacher who once taught Jivan – becomes involved with Hindu nationalist politics and his own ascent is soon inextricably linked to Jivan’s fall.
Taut, propulsive and electrifying, from its opening lines to its astonishing finale, A Burning confronts issues of class, fate, prejudice and corruption with a Dickensian sense of injustice, and asks us to consider what it means to nurture big ambitions in a country hurtling towards political extremism.
A Burning is a novel for our times and for all time.
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
Publisher: Scribner UK (June 12, 2020)
Length: 304 pages
‘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
‘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. A stunning debut’
– Yaa Gyasi
‘Megha Majumdar’s soon-to-be published A Burning is the best debut novel I have come across in a long time. Somehow Majumdar succeeds in capturing the boundless energy and starry-eyed hopefulness of the country’s youth. A Burning signals the arrival of a new voice of immense talent and promise’
– Amitav Ghosh
‘Polyphonic…Lovely is a particular gem…brilliant’
– Kirkus Reviews
‘This is a novel of now: a beautifully constructed literary thriller from a rare and powerful new voice’
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