The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga -- Book Review

"Oh, I could go on and on about myself, sir. I could gloat that I am not just any murderer, but one who killed his own employer (who is a kind of second father), and also contributed to the probable death of all his family members. A virtual mass murderer.

But I don't want to go on and on about myself."

I buy very few books, but the library hold queue for this book was so long, and the reviews and discussions about it have been so compelling, that I broke down and bought a copy.

The basic premise of the story is that Balram (our murderer) has heard on the radio that the Premier of China is coming to India and wants to meet some of India's entrepreneurs. Balram, over the course of seven nights, writes to the Premier, explaining how he came from the "Darkness" of India's rural provinces to become a successful businessman in Bangalore.

The first hundred pages of this book are good, but not rave-worthy, which had me wondering what all the fuss was about. Then, there is a scene where Balram brushes his teeth for the first time:

"Brush. Brush. Spit.
Brush. Brush. Spit.
If only a man could spit his past out so easily."
For me, this was the turning point in the book, the place where the narrative went from interesting and mildly entertaining to if-I-put-the-book-down-I-still-won't-get-anything-else-done-because-I'll-be-thinking-about-the-book-so-I-might-as-well-sit-here-and-read-it-to-the-detriment-of-everything-else-I-should-be-doing. (Don't pretend that you don't know exactly what I mean.)

This book has been awarded the Man Booker Prize and provoked a slew of angry reactions from the Indian community. Adiga's The White Tiger is unapologetic, coarse, misinformed, bigotry-ridden and morally ambiguous. It has been accused of India-bashing and pandering to the West, and I can see their point. I don't, however, agree. The important thing to keep in mind when reading this is that it's one person's story and the narrative is told from his point of view.

As readers, we are not being asked to buy into Balram's view of the world, we're simply given the chance to see the world his way--a new perspective, and a provoking one.

Buy The White Tiger at amazon.com

5 comments:

J. Kaye said...

LOLOL! I won't pretend! I know exactly what you mean. ;)

Teresa said...

I agree with you about the moral ambiguity of this book, and that's one of the things that made this so much more interesting than just an account of a poor man making good. And I thought Balram's voice was sooo much fun, even as I was appalled at some of his choices. Not my favorite Booker winner, or even my favorite Booker winner about India, but still a good read. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

samantha.1020 said...

Nice review! I've been hearing a lot about this book and will definitely be checking it out.

Diane said...

I want to read this one; it's on my shelf. Thanks for posting.

nishitak said...

Great review. I also loved this book. Balram's point of view was so interesting and challenging. He really lived up to the moniker "The White Tiger"

I have also reviewed this book at my blog http://nishitak.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/the-white-tiger-a-book-review/

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