The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Now I have decided with the Man Booker Winners that as I read them I am not going to compare them to what else was long listed and short listed that year which I might have read. I don’t actually see any benefit in debating if it should have won if a) I haven’t read the whole long list and b) it doesn’t make any difference as I can’t change history… I know, I know, my mystical powers are weak! I am simply going to tell you what I think. Have I ever done a blog on how I review a book before? If not do let me know and I will do one in the coming weeks. Anyway onto the book in question…

The White Tiger is Aravind Adiga’s first novel and it is an incredibly accomplished first book which paints a vivid if slightly dark picture of ‘the real India’. We follow the story of Balram Halwai son of a rickshaw puller also known as ‘The White Tiger’ (which is of course the rarest of all the feline family) and his journey from a boy in a small village to ‘an entrepreneur’ in the big city via a life of servitude as a driver and, rather ominously, murder.

The story is undoubtedly a dark one and one in which Adiga is telling us of the corruption (which as Dovegreyreader brilliantly summed up in her review “just slimes off the page”) in India, its globalisation and how it has faired since the British moved out and American culture moved in. We see the darker sides of life out there that ‘tourists’ to India might not. Though this is a hard look at India and is very gritty for the reader, amongst the dark though there is humour thanks to such a wonderful protagonist. If you are puzzling over how a murderer could be likeable and funny then you need to read the book. Mind you there are a few other novels where I have felt that way too… oh dear, should I worry?

Balram’s personality changes as his surroundings do. He starts of as a naïve but clever school boy, and then becomes a disheartened young man in the tea shops before becoming a wry, calculating and knowing servant to his repugnant masters. He tells us; actually he isn’t telling us his story he is telling it to someone else. We read his story told in the form of letters to The Premiere of China. Which is oddly the only bit of the book that I didn’t really take to as I couldn’t work out why you would tell such a tale and admit to the things that he does if it might very well end up on the desk of someone as important as that.

Bar that one glitch I found the book incredible. It’s so readable and that was all down to Balram and his character (the font of a book helps though I find, more on that next week). I thought the way Adiga managed the plotting and story so we got to see so much of Indian life quite remarkable. We started in the villages looking at education, death, marriage and people who may be poor but make their life as rich as possible through the hard times (Balram’s Gran is a brilliantly calculating old woman – but then you would need to be). In Delhi we get the mix of the richest of the rich, the corruption of the government, the globalisation and Americanisation of the cities and all its gloss and glamour and the in contrast the prostitution, slum dwelling, and the life of those in servitude – the cockroach scenes freaked me out. All in all a great narrator, an unusual look at, and insight into, India and a highly accomplished debut novel.

I look forward to more novels by Adiga and hope that we see more novels from him. Arundhati Roy is an author I always wanted to read more works of after ‘The God of Small Things’ her Booker Winner but sadly we never did, maybe she is biding her time? One thing I will add about the book is the amount of people that I have seen reading it on the tube, I was going to do my report on that this weekend but I am going to hold off another week as am finding it quite interesting. Right I am off to read in the glorious Sunday sunshine.


Filed under Aravind Adiga, Atlantic Books, Books of 2009, Man Booker, Review

10 responses to “The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

  1. Sandy Nawrot

    I loved this book as well. I listened to it on audio, which was a great experience. The narrator captured the essence of Balram perfectly. The mixture of grit and humor was so entertaining, and despite the grumbles that this book won the award this year, I thought was very much well deserved.

  2. C. B. James

    Maybe I’d like it better on audio. My book club is reading it for next week’s meeting. I’m just about 30 pages in and have not fallen in love with it yet. Hopefully, I will soon.

  3. Dot

    I was looking forward to your review of this, my partner was given it as a gift and it has been sitting on our book shelf for a while. It sounds like you enjoyed it!

  4. candyschultz

    I hated the format a lot and I doubt that the darkness of the story is belied by reality. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire”. My objections to the book were basically the way the story was told. It seemed beyond flippant and I couldn’t stand the narrator. I do not look forward to another one of his books.

    I did read most of the longlist last year and there were some incredibly beautiful entries. I just can’t see how this one stood out for the judges. I guess that’s why they never ask me to judge.

  5. farmlanebooks

    I didn't think White Tiger was anything special. I think the problem was that the 'real India' was nothing new to me. It was much better described in the light, funny, but moving 'Q&A' or the powerful, complex 'A Fine Balance'.

    I found the letters to the Chinese Premiere annoying, and unrealistic.

    It was OK, but if you've read as many books on India as me you'd find this one near the bottom of the list!

    It's great to see your continual appreciation for the Bookers though!!

  6. Savidge Reads

    Sandy – I can imagine this book being brilliant on ausio and I very very rarely say that.

    CB – Keep at it and see how it goes it might suddenly just click like it finally has with me and The Name of the Rose.

    Dot – I think its a marmite book if you get my drift, would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Candy – there is something about Slumdog Millionaire I really dont fancy, is that wrong, nothing has made me want to see it at all. I have heard the book it was based on Q&A is very good though.

    Jackie – I dont think this is the best book on India there are far too many contenders out there such as Animals People which I thought was fantastic. I really enjoyed this too and am trying not to compare it with other Indian books or Man Booker (slightly difficult ha) and just seeing if its good fiction. I love that we all have such polar opinions on some books and identical opinions on others its great keeps it interesting!

  7. farmlanebooks

    Animals People is near the top of my TBR pile – it looks like a book I’ll enjoy, although I do wonder if you say you like it!!!!

    No – I love comparing and contrasting the books we read. It is great to have someone who reads so many of the same books. I look forward to your thoughts on Midnights Children – it’s length/wordiness is scaring me at the moment!

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