British Book Awards, Author of the Year, 2009.
Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2008.
No saris. No scents. No spices. No music. No lyricism. No illusions.
This is India now.
Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven 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 a village in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for a wealthy man, two Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son.
Through Balram's eyes, we see India as we've never seen it before: the cockroaches and the call centers, the prostitutes and the worshippers, the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger.
With a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create morality 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.
©2008 Aravind Adiga; (P)2008 Tantor
"Balram's evolution from likable village boy to cold-blooded killer is fascinating and believable." (Library Journal)
"A brutal view of India's class struggles is cunningly presented in Adiga's debut....It's the perfect antidote to lyrical India." (Publishers Weekly)
The hardest part of this book was to take the main character seriously. With such a fake accent the entire book felt like a caricature, and I just simply didn't have any attachment to any characters or consequences. Whether that was due to the narration or not is impossible to say, but I just didn't feel any weight behind the story line. Such good reviews make me hesitant to make a final judgement against the book, but the audio production certainly left me wanting.
You certainly leave the United States with this book. I am not convinced that you go to a place that is "real," of course, but the trip is nevertheless entertaining. Much wit, crazy happenings -- and a lovable scoundrel of a hero to root for. What my high school Spanish teacher would have called a "picaresque novel."
The upside is that this book will make you think, and will put you in a world that most westerners are unaware of. The downside is that the main character is not a likable one. He has no redeeming qualities and is a borderline sociopath. No relationships are developed adequately, in fact, it is difficult to relate to any of the characters. All in all, I would say to let this one pass and try one of the many fabulous 'listens' out there.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
(3.5 stars, really) A witty if rather cynical novel, White Tiger tells a story of India through the eyes of Balram Halwai, an impoverished village boy from "the darkness" who manages, through a combination of subservience and cunning, to become a driver for a wealthy landlord, and finally, after a terrible act, a self-made entrepreneur. Balram serves as a sort of sardonic tour guide for the two halves of India that he sees; there are the poor: miserable, forever indentured to menial jobs, and finding initiative only to prevent other poor from rising above them; and there are the rich: corrupt, malicious (or, at best, weak-willed), unapologetically self-serving, and indifferent to the poor. I've noticed that more than a few Indian readers online have criticized the accuracy of Adiga's skewed depiction of the country, but, as an American, I found it an eye-opening read and perhaps not a bad starting point for literary excursions into India. Sometimes, the picture it paints is darkly funny. Sometimes, it's upsetting.
As a novel, White Tiger has a few flaws. Balram's description and wit often hit their targets, but he himself never becomes a very involving character. Mostly, he's just a passive observer until the plot requires him to do something significant. Even the crime he commits has a perfunctory, self-serving aspect that does little to make him a more likeable, interesting, or powerful character. (And why he chooses to tell his life story to the Chinese premier via email, I don't know, though it's an amusing device.)
Still, I got something from Adiga's scathing humor and his tragicomic portrayal of a life caught between poverty and wealth, and servitude and freedom. Being a short read/listen, White Tiger didn't overstay its welcome.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Though not in the region depicted in the book, I lived in India for a short time back in the 70's. I never met anyone the likes of The White Tiger. This was truly a despicable person. I listened to this book to its end, expecting finally, that there would have been merit to my time spent listening. I failed miserably to find any merit whatsoever. God, this was a terrible waste of time. Why didn't I pay attention to the reviews. I could SCREAM it was so bad.
This is my first purchase from audible.com, and I can only hope future books are as insightful and entertaining as the White tiger. My husband and I could not turn it off on a recent road trip, so captivating was the story and the narration (John Lee--I think there is another version available with a different narrator).
I loved the book and the reading. First-rate all the way. While it's by no means a chair-gripper, it is nonetheless compelling in terms of its psychological portrait. I recommend the book without reservation.
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