The White Tiger Author:Aravind Adiga Introducing a major literary talent, The White Tiger offers a story of coruscating wit, blistering suspense, and questionable morality, told by the most volatile, captivating, and utterly inimitable narrator that this millennium has yet seen. Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of sev... more »en nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, 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. Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village's wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly ("Love -- Rape -- Revenge!"), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive. Balram's eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create virtue, and money doesn't solve every problem -- but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations. Sold in sixteen countries around the world, The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and 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.« less
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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.
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.