Book: The White Tiger
Author: Aravind Adiga
Claim to Fame: Man-Booker Prize winner – 2008
My Short Review: Very well written, strong and well defined characters, dark humor, very interesting story line, easy to read.
My Rating: 5 Stars (yes! All 5!)
Well, I cannot avoid this task any more. I have to make up my mind, sit down and pen my thoughts on this book. Even before I start my review for this book, I should mention that I am totally totally honored by my friends’ trust in my taste in books. I have had at least 20 emails from various people asking me if I have read “The White Tiger” and what I thought about it and if I would recommend it. Geez! That’s the first time I came close to feeling that my opinion is valued (at least when it comes to books!). Thanks, Folks. I hope my review doesn’t let you down!
But the bad side to this is that there is tremendous pressure on me right now. A pressure to make sure I present all sides of this multi-faceted Man-Booker Prize winner.
Frankly, I cannot make up my mind on this one. I am sharing an intense love-hate relationship with this book right now. The “Literature Enthusiast” in me loved this book and the “Indian” in me hated it.
Let me start by giving you a brief description of the book. “The White Tiger” is a novel is epistolary format – the whole book is a single letter - A single letter written over 7 nights - A letter addressed to the Premier of China; A letter written by a person who claims to have a true understanding of the current status of India; A letter written by a person who is a Chauffer turned Murderer turned Entrepreneur.
Balram Halwai is
’s very own “rags to riches” story. He is originally from Laxmangarh, a small tiny village in northern India . His dad is a rickshaw driver and for those who are not aware of rickshaws, this is a physically demanding job that is definitely not lucrative. Balram is forced to leave school and work in a tea shop to supplement the family income with yet another meager salary. Sick of being stuck in the poverty rut, he leaves the village in search of wealth. For Balram, there is no looking back. He lies his way into becoming a chauffer for a wealthy “recently-returned-from- India ” boss and then murders his way into becoming an entrepreneur. New York
Balram Halwai is not your typical evil rogue. He is just another man who is sick of the “rooster coop” (this is the collective noun he gives to describe the servants of
) and wants to break out of it and do something worthwhile in his life. He doesn’t want to be the one waiting in the parking decks of expensive malls discussing inane stuff with other similar “roosters”. He wants to be the one who gets to leave his chauffer with his expensive car in the parking deck and walk around in the malls. In spite of his criminal actions, it is impossible to hate Balram. At least, I couldn’t. He lied, he cheated, he killed, he didn’t respect his parents, he blackmailed, he broke every rule possible in the rule book but yet, it is impossible to hate him for what he has done. I really enjoyed his sense of humor as well – not the straight forward funny humor – but a dark humor. His satirical view of life was a different perspective – something that I enjoyed reading. India
Aravind Adiga is a truly talented writer. The book kept me hooked from the very first line to the very last. There was never a single boring line in the entire book. I enjoyed the style of writing and I enjoyed the twists in tale. I personally thought it was very very well written. I read a couple of reviews before I started reading the book and most of them seemed to mention that the letter to the Premier of China was a very weak pretext for the frame of the story. I thought it was a perfect way of showing how Balram had changed. His confidence in himself is admirable. He even has the audacity to think that he has risen to a level in life where he has the right to brief the Premier of China on the true state of affairs in
However….(you knew the “however” was coming, didn’t you?).. In spite of liking everything about the writing, there were a lot of things about the book that disturbed me. One important thing was the way Aravind Adiga has portrayed
. Someone who lives in India India knows that has two sides – the rich, educated side that dominates the IT industry and also a poorer side that just cannot be avoided. It wasn’t the portrayal of the poor that bothered me. It was lack of values that everyone seemed to be demonstrating that kinda got to me. I must say that I have always been proud of the family values we cherish, the respect we give our elders, our belief in God (not matter what religion), the pride we feel when we talk about the country…(I could just go on but I really should stop here coz I have made my point).. But somehow, the characters in “The White Tiger” disregarded most of these values. Adiga does mention, in an interview, that the thoughts and feelings towards India and Indians are solely Balram’s and in no way reflect his feelings for the country. But even then, I felt that the whole book gave a false image of the values of Indian people – both rich and poor. Or rather, I am scared that people who haven’t been to India and who don’t know what it is like will get a really wrong impression based on the things the read in books like this. India
I know many of you belong to that category. Have you read “The White Tiger”? What was your impression about the
that was portrayed in the book? If you’ve read the book or read reviews about the book I would love to hear your views on this one. India
In spite of saying what I said about the portrayal of
, I am still giving the book full 5 stars. I must say that it was very well written and a must read! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it. It is an easy, quick read and very interesting. I really enjoyed reading it and I hope you do too! India