BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘A Burning’ by Megha Majumdar

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it:

‘A Burning’ by Megha Majumdar

In my top five novels of 2020 to date, this quiet yet monumental story just about stopped my heart. Set in India in a city where violent acts affecting both Hindus and Muslims are common, Jivan, a young shopgirl from a poor Muslim family, is accused of being in league with terrorists who set a train on fire, killing a hundred innocents. Defending her are PT Sir, a gym teacher at the private school where Jiven was a scholarship student, and Lovely, a hijira (third gender/transsexual woman), who is learning English from Jivan so that she can pursue a film career. Once arrested due to a Facebook post criticizing the government’s response to the event, Jivan cannot be saved by either her parents or by the two others. Pt Sir attends a political rally and rises to a position of power within the ambit of a powerful and corrupt local politician. Lovely shares a video of her performance in acting class and starts trending. Told from the three perspectives, with additional voices forming a tragic chorus, the fate of innocent Jivan will burn into your memory. The writing is so simple, true, and fine that it makes other novels seem trivial in comparison. I would rank it with Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the utterly amazing skill of this debut author.

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