Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Man on Fire: Book summary and reviews of Man on Fire by Stephen Kelman

Man on Fire

by Stephen Kelman

Man on Fire by Stephen Kelman X
Man on Fire by Stephen Kelman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published Feb 2016
    320 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

John Lock has fled the quiet desperation of his life in England - decades wasted in a meaningless job, a marriage foundering in the wake of loss, and a terrible secret he cannot bear to share with his wife - and has come to India to meet his destiny.

A destiny dressed in a white karate suit and sporting an impressive moustache.

John has come to offer his help to a man who has learned to conquer pain, a world record-breaker who specializes in feats of extreme endurance and ill-advised masochism. Bibhuti Nayak has survived forty-three kicks to the unprotected groin in ninety seconds, three forty-pound slabs of concrete smashed over his groin with a sledgehammer, and thirty-one watermelons dropped on his stomach in one minute from a height of more than thirty feet. His next record attempt - to have fifty baseball bats broken over his body - will be the crowning moment in a career that has seen him rise from poverty to become a minor celebrity in a nation where standing out from the crowd requires tenacity, courage, and perhaps a touch of madness.

John is welcomed into Bibhuti's family and into the color and chaos of Mumbai, where he encounters Ping-Pong-playing monks, a fearless seven-year-old martial arts warrior, and an old man who longs for the monsoon to wash him away. As he and Bibhuti take their leap of faith together, John sets out to rewrite a brave end to a life poorly lived.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Written with the blend of humor and compassion that Kelman demonstrated in his first novel, Pigeon English (2011), this is a deeply introspective and entertaining story of the hopes and dreams of two men and the country captivated by them." - Booklist

"Starred Review. With its unlikely subject for such an emotionally rich and imaginatively told tale, this second novel easily fulfills the promise of Kelman's much-admired and Man Booker short-listed Pigeon English." - Library Journal

"While the book offers some fine prose and observations of Indian life, it's also marked by clunky stretches and an awkward seriousness that suggests a writer still trying to sort out his thoughts." - Kirkus

"Endearing ... a joyful offering." - Publishers Weekly

"Enthralling ... [Kelman has the] ability to write dark, gut-wrenching books full of life and energy." - The Herald (Scotland)

"...Stephen Kelman has written a book of profound beauty and deep empathy." - The Guardian (UK)

"One of the most quirky books I have ever read ... A revelatory and very touching book." - "Books of the Year," The Observer (UK)

"An original tale about faith, friendship and determination ... an enthralling novel by a writer of considerable talent." - Financial Times (UK)

"Highly charismatic ... A heart-warming tale that examines what it means to look at life's difficulties head on, from which a message of love and friendship shines through." - The National (UAE)

"Man on Fire is a glorious, warm, unpredictable story, told by two glorious, warm, unpredictable narrators. I loved it." - Roddy Doyle

This information about Man on Fire was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Stephen Kelman

Stephen Kelman's first novel, Pigeon English, was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award, and was a Barnes & Noble "New Voices" selection. Kelman was also shortlisted for the New Writer of the Year Award at the 2011 Galaxy National Book Awards. He lives in St. Albans, England.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Bewilderment
    by Richard Powers
    In 2019, Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, a sprawling novel whose characters...
  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Dinosaurs
    by Lydia Millet

    "Tender but never sentimental, wearing its intelligence in a low-slung style, Dinosaurs is a garden of earthly delights."—Vogue

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.
Who Said...

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.