Friday, 16 December 2016

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga  
First published in America by Simon And Schuster in 2008. Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

One of my WorldReads from India
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought at a book sale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £5.87 (PB)
Wordery : from £5.71 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India - by murdering his master. 
The White Tiger presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking - from the desperate, almost lawless villages along the Ganges, to the booming Wild South of Bangalore and its technology and outsourcing centres. The first-person confession of a murderer, The White Tiger is as compelling for its subject matter as for the voice of its narrator - amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.

I know I read The White Tiger soon after it came out in paperback and my OH bought a copy from Waterstones. It's even got a rating on my Goodreads. Unusually for me though, reading the synopsis brought back absolutely no memories of the story and I didn't have a single deja vu moment throughout this re-reading. I'm not sure what that says about the book. Obviously I got to enjoy it this time around without suddenly realising that I knew how it would all end, but I wonder whether it wil fade from my memory so completely second time around!

For what essentially is a murderer's confession, The White Tiger is very funny. There is frequent dry humour covering all aspects of Indian life from well-known stereotype characters to unexpected scenarios and I liked Balram's voice which is convincing and sympathetically portrayed. Adiga does highlight disturbing moments of extreme poverty, violence and corruption, but the overall lightness of his writing mean these swiftly slip from view, much like Balram's driving past countless homeless beggars in his sealed car. Is this a good thing? From a distant Western reader's point of view, it meant I wasn't distracted by thoughts of needing to Do Something About This, but thinking back now to write this review, the extremes of social station are shocking.

While I certainly don't condone murdering your employer to get ahead, Balram's story leads neatly and understandably to that point, and the previous exaggerations and seemingly outlandish occurrences make his actions seem perfectly natural, all things considered! I didn't like the overarching device of emails to the Chinese premier and found this increasingly irritating as the book progresses, but it crops up mostly only at the beginning of chapters so can be pretty much ignored and I did find The White Tiger to be a very entertaining novel.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Aravind Adiga / Contemporary fiction / Books from India

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