Burning for Freedom
by Anurupa Cinar
Trafford Publishing

"O Goddess of Freedom, Life is to die for you, Death is to live without you!"

The above quote belongs to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a revolutionary who strove to free his motherland, India, from the clutches of the Bristish. His story intertwines with Keshu, a fourteen-year-old Indian boy. In an effort to help his oppressed country, young Keshu attempts to assassinate District Superintendent Glencowrie, a British official. He is successful, but for his crime, he is sent to the inhuman Cellular Jail for political prisoners, where he suffers untold hardships—sexual molestation, terrible food, illness, hard work. He makes it through his seven years of imprisonment with Savarkar's help, who is Keshu's idol, and is imprisoned in the same jail. Savarkar has some sway over Barrie, the fearsome jail boss, and with his charisma, he is able to influence the prisoners to stage strikes, get better food, and start a library.

Keshu eventually gets pardoned and returns home, but worries about Savarkar daily. Things go from bad to worse—Keshu's mother dies a horrible death setting herself on fire to escape from the violent Moplahs (Muslims), and there is much unrest in India. Keshu eventually gets married to Lakshmi, a widow, a thing unheard of in India, because widows are shunned in the Hindu society. Savarkar is finally exiled, but kept under a close watch. Keshu and Lakshmi want to reunite with him and aid him in his lifelong struggle to free their homeland.

Cinar's book will pull at readers' heart strings as Keshu and Savarkar struggle to make it through their trials in the Cellular Jail and suffer for their homeland in Britain's grasp. This is a story about dirty politics and power plays, and it lists true historical events intertwined with fictional characters, which give it substance. The characters of Savarkar, Keshu, and Lakshmi are fleshed out well, and the reader has no problem relating to them and to the text. Cinar's writing is raw and visceral, and it transports the reader right into the 1913, when all the atrocities happened. The book's cover is glossy, featuring Savarkar in a traditional Indian garb, standing on a burning torch, which is consistent with the book's title. A good book, for lovers of India and Indian politics.

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