Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Book Review : The White Tiger

Written By: amodini - Oct• 07•10

The White Tiger: A Novel (Man Booker Prize)Title : The White Tiger

Author : Arvind Adiga
Genre : Realistic fiction
Pages : 288
Publisher : Free Press
Rating : 4/5
It has taken forever to get this book off my Reading List and into my hands, because I thought it would be a) Boring (did I really want to read about a halwai ? Maybe I could do laundry first) , b)Depressing, like so many other Indian-authored books tend to be,  and c)Lofty with a chance of Meatballs (A Booker prize no less; maybe all the erudite prose would  zip way above my head). Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean Depressing as in “how depressing is this writing”, rather it is the subject matter which sorta gets me down. Authors like Divakaruni and a host of others spin their stories from a ground reality, which fiction though it may be, hints at how it really is (no smoke without a fire, yes ? especially since if you’ve been to the South-Asian sub-continent or lived there for as many years as I have, you’ve viewed the fire first-hand). 
Anyway, just plain old get-it-out-of-the-way-ness drove me, and wow! Am I glad it did. Yes, this is the story of a man born into the halwai caste/profession, into desperate poverty, in the undeveloped backwaters of the great Indian State, which Adiga in the book calls  the Darkness. Balram, for that is his name, brought up by his nagging and cruel aunt, is pulled out of school very early like his siblings, and put to work.  He is ambitious though and manages to work his way up, slowly but surely, using his opportunities wisely and quelling the innate desire (as he puts it) to be trod upon.
The entire book is in the first person, told from Balram’s point of view. And what a point of view it is ! At times acidic, and at others almost mellow, Adiga gives voice to his finely textured character with great skill and candor. Balram is a veritable “angry young man”but describes his situations in a witty, sardonic, sometimes steel-edged sarcasm.  
Adiga’s story gets down to what I would call the brass tacks, since it describes outright what most books only hint at – the frustration, despair and demeaning nature of poverty, the dual nature of India’s society, and the deplorable lack of law and order and justice for India’s unwashed masses. In the midst of the swirling blackness, Balram rails and fights against the powers that strive to keep him down. He definitely isn’t like all of his peers, but will that be enough ?
I totally loved this book, the plot, the pace, the storytelling, the descriptions – everything. Adiga has produced a remarkable book, engaging and thought-provoking, and while it entertains it also leaves with you squirming in uneasiness. Highly recommended.

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