A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation.
On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing....
‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’
Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed for ever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack.
Jivan - a poor, young, Muslim girl, who dreams of going to college - faces a possible death sentence after being accused of collaborating with the terrorists.
Lovely - an exuberant hijra who longs to be a Bollywood star - holds the alibi that can set Jivan free, but telling the truth will cost her everything she holds dear.
PT Sir - an opportunistic gym teacher who once taught Jivan - becomes involved with Hindu nationalist politics and his own ascent is soon inextricably linked to Jivan’s fall.
Taut, propulsive and electrifying, from its opening lines to its astonishing finale, A Burning confronts issues of class, fate, prejudice and corruption with a Dickensian sense of injustice, and asks us to consider what it means to nurture big ambitions in a country hurtling towards political extremism.
A Burning is a novel for our times and for all time.
"Immaculately constructed, acidly observed and gripping from start to finish, A Burning is a brilliant debut." (The Guardian)
"A big hit in America last year, this buzzy debut about the impact of a terrorist attack in a Kolkata slum on three connected characters is full of hot-button global topics, including violent nationalism." (Metro)
"An evocative insight into class, corruption, injustice and power dynamics, this poignant tale makes for memorable reading." (Cosmopolitan)