Book Review- A Burning


This book was ranked #13 among the nominated books in the 2020 Goodreads choice awards - fiction category. It surprised me. The only book by an Indian author to make it there. Out of curiosity, I picked it to see how the book was written, how the plot was set up and to find out what got it there. 

It surprised me when people nudged each other on the local train, when a sweet shop sold fried dough stuffed with green peas, kachori, or when PT sir attended the political gathering outside the railway station. I did not expect this description of the very Indian life in the story.

The author, Megha Majumdar, was born and raised in Kolkata and later moved to the US to attend college at Harvard University. She currently lives in New York City. This is her first book which became a New York Times bestseller. I had different assumptions about the book.

But, the limelight for me about the book is how the author used the concept of showing emotion rather than telling it in her writing. For example:

His thick brows are coming together like worms in the soil. 

Author wrote this to express the nervousness of a character in a situation. I liked it.

Coming to the story which seems to be about Jivan in the beginning but it is also a story of Lovely, a transgender, and PT sir, a sports teacher. The one emotion that connected all these characters was their urge to upgrade their lives into the middle class of Indian society.

 The story begins with Jivan being jailed for an anti-nationalist comment on Facebook. Burning of a train at Kolbagan railway station prompted Jivan to write a dis-reputing comment without knowing the consequences. The police arrested and jailed her for promoting terrorist activities. The story then introduces the reader to Jivan’s backstory, introduces us to Lovely, a transgender or Hijra, and PT Sir, a sports teacher in the school. 

Whether Jivan would be acquitted of the crime she did not commit would depend on the testimonies of Lovely and PT Sir. 

But whether Lovely would give up her dream of becoming an actress to save Jivan, or whether PT sir would give up his only chance of becoming a political leader to save Jivan, would force the reader to finish the book. 

I loved the character of Lovely as this is the first time I have seen a transgender character. The author portrayed it with a fun element in the descriptions.

 Time to go to acting class. I walk quickly down the alley, hips this way and that, past the small bank where the manager demanded my birth certificate to open an account. "I told him, 'Keep your account,'" I say to the camera following me. "I told him, 'Birth certificate! Am I a princess?' "

The author has also been quite creative in naming some characters. Jivan’s fellow inmates in prison were Americandi and Nirmaladi. One who doesn’t know Hindi would read the names as one word. However, one who knows Hindi would read it like - American Di. 

It also highlighted the issue of cow slaughter, the prevalent impact of social media and the political misadventures of the country. But the highlight of the book for me is the show-vs-tell approach and the fun element in her writing, which overshadows minor editing errors and somewhat unrealistic ending to the story. 

In the end, it’s a good read and people who love reading stories that depict the lives of Indian people will definitely love it.

Happy Reading.

But which book are you reading today?

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Chetan Maheshwari

Hello, I am a Project Management Professional, and an author and a blogger by passion. I like good sarcasm and humor. Books, people around me, and nature inspire me, and my blogs and book reflect the same.


Let me know what you think

  1. Very well reviewed. I am currently reading "Life's Amazing Secrets" by Gaur Gopal Das.

    1. Thank you so much. I have heard about this book by G G Das, must be good

  2. Very well reviewed Chetan Ji, raising curiosity about the book. I am reading a Hindi novel now-a-days. By the way, my own (Hindi) novel has also got published recently.

    1. Thank you so much Jitendra ji.
      Congratualtions for your novel. I will check it out.

  3. Thanks for the review, this one's on my TBR

Previous Post Next Post