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.
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.
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.