A Burning by Megha Majumdar is one of the most unique books that I have read in quite awhile. Set in India, a terrorist attack happens on a train that ends up killing hundreds of innocent people. Three characters, Jivan, Lovely, and PT Sir, are impacted by this attack in different ways and it changes the trajectory of their lives forever. Each of them is longing for something better; Jivan lives in the slums and dreams of a comfortable, middle class life, PT Sir is a teacher who longs for political power, and Lovely is a hijra with an outspoken and exuberant personality and desires to make it big in Hollywood. These three characters have past connections with one another that come out as the investigation focuses on Jivan as a potential terrorist conspirator.
I have seen some conflicting reviews on this book. My thoughts? I liked it. It is more of a literary fiction that gets you thinking beyond simply the words on the pages. The chapters are short and switch between the three characters. This is a plot driven book, so the characters are introduced to you as they are and pieces of their backstory trickle throughout the book. To me, this story was shocking, but from what I have read, corrupt politics, arrests based off social media posts, and fake news are very much a part of the country. The ever present looming power of the government was a major plot theme and one that is timely given the current political climate.
I have not read a book set in modern day India like A Burning. Because of that, there are many cultural references that were new to me. I can't speak to the accuracy of these, but I researched many #ownvoices reviews and I highly encourage you do as well. I will share some #ownvoices reviews on my IG page and on my stories, so check them out before or after you read A Burning.
If you are a fan of There There by Tommy Orange, check this one out. It reminded me of Orange's writing style with the multiple character storylines, short chapters, and intertwining plotlines. For a debut novel, Majumdar wrote a unique, timely, and thought provoking book. I will definitely check out what she comes out with in the future.