I was a bit apprehensive reading a series of letters from a barely literate Indian chauffeur. There seemed to be little about the driver I could find engaging: murderer, entrepreneur, Halwai (sweetmaker) caste, Hindi, angry servant. I was amazed at the charisma of the story-teller and the metaphors he uses for life: chicken coop, zoo, white tiger, big belly. Vivid dark imagery and social inequity make this a great novel. Winner of the Man Booker Prize (English) 2008.
This novel most definitely lived up to all of it's many accolades, especially if you are a lover of Indian literature. The narrator tells his life story in a series of emails to a Chinese official who is coming to India to learn about entrepreneurship. You learn a great deal about the underbelly of Indian society and it's huge division of wealth and privelege. Told with a great deal of humor. I had a hard time putting this down!
We read this book for our women's book club and had the longest, liveliest discussion I've ever had while in the club. We probably discussed the book for over an hour. This is an excellent book. At times, I found it hard to read because of the graphic descriptions of the poverty and unfairness of the poor people's lives. But if you want to really have something to think about, this is the book for you. At times, you find yourself rooting for the main character, who has murdered his employer in cold blood. Wben you're done with the book, however, you may find yourself wondering how you could have been on his side. The layers to this book are endless and it definitely deserved the award it won: The Man Booker award of 2008.
The premise behind a poor young chauffeur in India who writes a lengthy letter to the premier of China may seem dull or may seem like it would be hard to relate if you're reading this from the West. This book may surprise you and enlighten you about how people think when they're under the thumb of a system that keeps and has been keeping peasants poor for millenia.
The writing is clear, the emotions are tight, gripping, and very much present through the book, though I don't remember the narrator ever stating how he felt. You will definitely live there in the servant's quarters though, and as this book progresses you'll identify strongly with the protagonist.
This book will make you thankful for every bite of food, every paycheck, and if you are complacent about global wealth, this book will make you ruminate once again.
I'm glad I read this book and will probably keep it around for a reread sometime soon.
A very original angle from which to write a dead-on India book. One reviewer said it affected him like "a kick to the head" and I agree....and yet, it's not painful to read. A really fast-paced, wonderfully narrated take on life at the wrong end of India's caste system.
Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life, having nothing but his own wits to help him along. A different type of Indian novel, a black comedy.
An interesting tale of one man's journey from a slum-like village of the "darkness" to the entrepreneurial success of a single-room start-up in the "light," all retold through a series of letters to "His Excellency Wen Jiabao" in Beijing.
Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive about this book after reading the first chapter once I realized that all the following chapters would be written in letter form. How quickly that changed! I soon became immersed in Bahlram's physical, mental and spiritual journey from his small village to the large city of Delhi. This novel is a fast and enlightening read about the culture of India, the still relevant caste system, and the daily struggle between both the poor and the wealthy in a developing nation.
What a great read! A voice to the servant class and how one man made it out. When I visited India, I was quite uncomfortable with all the servants around me and had a very difficult time accepting it. The poverty in India is heartbreaking and I imagine that working as a servant is better than living on the street but everyone deserves to be treated as a human being. Even though The White Tiger is a work of fiction, it offers the readers an insight into how millions of people live in India and poses the questions, what would you do and how far would you go to change your place in society?
If you can, get a copy of the audio version of this book. Listening to the amazing actor John Lee pull off a thoroughly convincing (East?) Indian accent, will have you spell-bound, entertained, and amused. There is some language not appropriate for children (and much subject matter) so don't expect to listen to it while you wash up in the kitchen if you have youngsters around. Highly original and an eye-opener.
I was in Hyderabad, India for 12 days last November, so I was especially interested to read the book. The social mores of the Indian people represented in the book were quite interesting to read. The desperate survival mode of living is quite different from what we generally find in the US, except for extrememly poor.
It took me about 40 pages before I got into this book, but then it was fairly compelling.
Adiga does a good job of allowing the reader to understand Balrams inner struggles as a lower caste driver for a wealthy but corrupted master. Looking into Indian society was informative as well as interesting. While not one of the best books I've read, I believe it was well written.
This is a fantastic book - well-written, gripping, funny, and a real page-turner. Told from one man's perspective, we learn the events that propel him to commit a terrible act, which is presaged early in the book. This novel is about India's underclass, and it amplifies all the different elements - class, politics, religion, family - that can work to keep a poor person in the "Rooster Coop," that is, an eternal servant. As someone familiar with Indian culture, I thought the way certain things were presented - class, corruption - were spot-on; whereas the author was very selective about highlighting only the negative aspects of others (such as family, which can also play an incredibly positive and protective role in Indian society). This was a quick read and made for a very interesting discussion at my book club!
This book reminds me of Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" except that it is set in India. This is the third book I've read set in India by natives of the country. All were definitely a darker India than most Americans see. (Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love.")It also reminds me of a 'slave narrative" like Frederick Douglas or Harriet Jacobs. I wasn't surprised to read that Aravind Adiga was influenced by Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright. The influence of Ellison's "Invisible Man" is definitely obvious even before I read that it was. It is basically the story of a poor man's emanicipation from modern day slavery and the extraordinary lengths he had to go through to become a free man. He is a "white tiger." A white tiger is only born once in a generation and they are exceedingly rare. He is the rare individual who has the ability to break out of cultural, family, and family chains. If you liked this book, you might also like "Sacred Games." It is about how a man became a gangster in India to free himself but it is also the story of a police detective who tries to figure out the gangster's suicide.
A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright's Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India's caste society. "This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you've never heard it before" (John Burdett, Bangkok 8).
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China's impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.
Recalling The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, The White Tiger is narrative genius with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation--and a startling, provocative debut.
This debut novel about India's caste system was an excellent read. The writing is funny, clever and very memorable. The narrator's voice is very believable and makes this book a very pleasurable read and a page-turner. It is a philosophical story that covers a lot of social issues and insights about modern India and the human condition. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in India and its politics, social system and beliefs
Adiga is an excellent storyteller and this is a fast-paced, gripping narrative. The main character, Munna/Balram, is complex and flawed, but ultimately empathetic -- a refreshing change from the main characters in most of the novels I've read lately. Accompanying him through the unexpected twists and turns on his journey out of the Darkness is a wild ride.
One of my all-time favorite books is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, which also explores the hideous corruption and stifling caste system that have destroyed millions of Indian lives. The White Tiger is a slightly more upbeat depiction with what you might even call a happy ending, but like A Fine Balance, it's a real eye opener.
I really enjoyed this book which I only ordered because it was on the Man Booker Prize list. It seems to me that it is even more relevant to U.S. readers now than it would have been when it was first published. So much of the content reverberates with what the 99% movement is bringing to the forefront. What might have seemed rather distant three years ago sounds all too familiar and close to home now.