A Burning Book Summary - A Burning Book explained in key points

A Burning summary

Megha Majumdar

Brief summary

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is a thought-provoking novel set in contemporary India. Through the intertwined narratives of three characters, it explores themes of justice, ambition, and the power of social media in a society rife with inequality and corruption.

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    A Burning
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    Three Strikes at the Heart of India

    In A Burning by Megha Majumdar, the lives of three ordinary people in contemporary India become intertwined after a shocking act of terrorism. The story starts with Jivan, a young Muslim girl from Kolkata's slums who is falsely accused of executing a terrorist attack because of a naïve Facebook comment that seemingly supports the act. Incriminated by circumstantial evidence and the power of social media, Jivan is arrested by the police.

    Meanwhile, PT Sir, a gym teacher in a local school, seeking to climb the social ladder, becomes embroiled in right-wing politics. Choosing power over righteousness, he willingly becomes a key witness against Jivan, distorting facts about her character and activities. His political ambitions cloud his judgment, leading to devastating consequences.

    The Stand of an Aspiring Actress

    The other side of the story unveils Lovely, an ambitious hijra (transgender woman) who seeks to break away from societal biases and become a movie star. Lovely, who knows that Jivan is innocent because she was with her on the night of the attack, faces a dilemma. On one hand, she could provide an alibi for Jivan, but on the other hand, to do so would sabotage her fledgling acting career, which has just started to take off thanks to her language lessons from Jivan.

    When asked to testify, she succumbs to her aspirations, choosing silence over righteousness. This highlights the individual's plight when faced with a choice between personal ambitions and justice—a prevalent theme throughout the narrative.

    Fate and Injustice

    Back in the prison, Jivan, lovely, and PT Sir's interests intertwine, demonstrating the clashing forces of modern India—rights against power, freedom against corporatism, and above all, hope against desperation. As the narrative unfolds, Majumdar compellingly portrays the grim realities of a corrupt system, which, instead of executing justice, uses a disenfranchised girl as a scapegoat to appease public outrage following the terrorist attack.

    Despite appealing for justice in letters to journalists, newscasters, and non-government organizations, Jivan's plea falls on deaf ears. Local politics, prejudices, and the media machine collectively ensure Jivan's fate while protecting the politically well-connected guilty party.

    Tragic Resolution, Unfulfilled Dreams

    In the end, Jivan is declared guilty, sentenced to death, and executed, despite the belief of her innocence by those who knew her closely. PT Sir rises in the political ranks, achieving the social mobility he desired, but not without moral compromises. And while Lovely attains her dream of movie stardom, it comes at a heavy price: her silence and Jivan's life.

    Through A Burning, Majumdar depicts how damaging and destructive systemic bias and corruption can be, especially to the marginalized. She underscores the ironic tragedy of a system intended to empower the truth yet more often silences the voices of the innocent. The devastating finale serves as a harsh critique of present-day Indian society, leaving readers with a profound contemplation of justice, ambition, and personal ethics.

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    What is A Burning about?

    A Burning by Megha Majumdar is a compelling novel that delves into the intersecting lives of three individuals in contemporary India. Jivan, a young Muslim girl, finds herself accused of a terrorist attack she did not commit. Lovely, an aspiring actress, becomes determined to help Jivan regardless of the consequences. And PT Sir, Jivan's former gym teacher, becomes entangled in a web of power and corruption. Through their stories, this book explores themes of justice, ambition, and the pursuit of truth.

    Who should read A Burning?

    • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking stories with multiple perspectives
    • People interested in exploring themes of justice, power, and social inequality
    • Book clubs looking for a fresh and impactful novel to discuss

    About the Author

    Megha Majumdar is an Indian-born author who gained international acclaim with her debut novel, 'A Burning.' She received her MFA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has previously worked as an editor at Catapult. Majumdar's writing explores complex themes such as social justice and the impact of political systems on individuals. 'A Burning' is her first published work, but it has already garnered widespread praise for its profound storytelling and thought-provoking narrative.

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