“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar

“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar

I’ll admit a large reason why I picked this book up is due to its fantastic cover. Really, the vivid colors and subtle flames look as great as I expected on my bookshelf. This thing p.o.p.s. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover! Can anybody else just not help it sometimes?

I saw in the acknowledgement section that Tyler Comrie designed the cover for this book. A very genuine props to him. It is gorgeous.

However, luckily in this case, judging it by its cover wasn’t a bad idea. The inside was just as beautiful as its outside.

Brief Summary: The book is set in India and tells the story of two women living in the slums and one middle-class man. One of the women, Jivan, is falsely accused of being a conspiracist in a deadly terrorist attack based off of a supposedly seditious Facebook post. The other woman, Lovely, is an aspiring actress and also transgender (often referred to as “hijra”, an Indian concept of third gender) throughout the book. The man, PT Sir, is a girls’ school gym teacher with cut throat ambition.

The characters’ lives interconnect through the book, although not in as major a way as I expected. The book really consists of three separate stories to me, all contributing to a larger picture of modern-day India.

Jivan will go to trial. Lovely will become a burgeoning star. PT Sir becomes somebody “important.” He gets his office and luxury apartment, and ravages his morality along the way.

The Big Idea: This book shows the corruption and poverty in India but also the corruption of power in general. What morals and decency people will toss to the side when the carrot of fame or power is dangled in front of them. Infuriating injustice is rife throughout the entire book, all the more infuriating because it is so realistic. You know that people’s lives are being ruined right now, in all nations, at the hands of crooked people. This book is a somber and poignant portrayal of that.

Reading Experience: This was a unique book to read. The cadence of reading this book was very fast-paced. It almost read like poetry to me. This is hard for my describe, but it had a distinct lyrical quality to it. To me, the book definitely did not have a “conversational” tone to it. You know in tv series how in subsequent episodes there’s an introduction that highlights what happened previously, that you can either watch or skip? The whole book felt like that to me. I think this both added and marginally took away from the book. One thing for certain is that the writing style is unique, and that is something I can appreciate in and of itself. It really felt like a piece of art while reading. And it was definitely still engaging enough that I wanted to turn the page.

I say it might have marginally took away from the story because in a way the characters didn’t feel “realistic.” Almost like the writing was too lyrical to actually always be someone’s thoughts and feelings. Like I said before, I felt like I was reading a reel of the characters’ lives (however, definitely not necessarily a highlight reel…). That being said, it was a really beautiful read.

~~~ SPOILER ALERT~~~

DO NOT READ PAST THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK YET (AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED) There’s a pretty big spoiler too, so I recommend you don’t!

Continue at your own risk…

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So I just want to discuss a little bit! Like a bookclub. I hated PT Sir with a passion. I know that’s exactly how the reader was supposed to feel, but ugh. Such a slimy person.

I felt more disappointed in Lovely than anything.

Poor Jivan. I didn’t actually expect her to die. I expected her to be saved at the last second. Honestly, the whole time I was thinking PT Sir would have a moment of clean conciseness and decency and help Jivan get off. The part where Jivan is speaking to her mother after her death was a nice literary touch.

I also found it odd how PT Sir held such a grudge against Jivan since she was a schoolgirl, all due to her not thanking him. She was a child, he didn’t even do anything wildly above-and-beyond. PT Sir is a character with some serious issues. It’s hard to say whether it’s even an authority complex or not?

So obviously Jivan being executed was disturbing, especially because we as readers know she was completely innocent. It might be easy to pin the public’s thirst for blood as a symptom of India’s corruption. However, if there was a terrorist attack in the US that killed over 100 people, and there was somebody who was believed to have genuinely committed the crime, I think the American public would be just as hungry for blood. I believe this is probably the case for most nations, and people in general. What does this say about us?

Was Jivan a very unfortunate statistical victim, and the dice were just rolled horribly not in her favor? Is it “inevitable” that sometimes the public is going to get it wrong? What about the thirst for retribution? (not even necessarily just for the death penalty, but harsh punishment in general, such as life in prison?)

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I would love to discuss in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

And the corgi rating is…..

4.5 corgis!

Don’t worry no corgis were harmed in the making of this rating 😉

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