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)
As an Indian, it was painful to have to listen to this narrated by a non-Indian faking an Indian accent. It came off sounding like Apu in the Simpsons. Don;t think that's what the authir intended. It was a mutilation.
This book was "assigned" for my book club.
I didn't have time to read so I bought the audio.
Because the narrator is from India, the speaker gave the story authenticity with his accent and musical speech.
The story was fun to listen to.
It is a modern and compelling story.
Well worth listening to!
A fascinating read. Also, gives one insight into the problems in India that are reported in the media.
Although this book seemed a bit repetitive in the ongoing satire of the dismal conditions of the poor and impoverished class in India, the story itself was intriguing enough that I simply had to finish the book. I wish the characters had developed more, but the moral behind the story was evident. That India is full of the Have's and the Have Not's and to become a Have, you need to, at least partly, be prepared to set aside your morals. The relentless descriptions of the poor life style, disgusting living conditions and extensive corruption, while seemingly tedious, hits home that there is little hope for the poor to overcome their conditions and rise out of it.
You can sit back and just let the book be read to you without much effort and it is humorous in how the narrator describes his chronology. I say it's worth a listen.
Firstly, the performer accent was horrible. In an effort to make it sound indian, he spoiled the already bad story/content of this book. I am still struggling on what is so big and unique about this book that it won awards. The description of events or a place seems ordinary, no big insights into human minds (hero's mind rather), no thrill or suspense, nothing that is informative. Not sure why others are rating this to be high.
Waste of credit.
Certainly not from Aravind Adiga.
I have listed to John Lee's other performance, but here in an effort to sound original, he has introduced annoyance (especially to the Indian listeners).
Disappointment on the book content. Anger on the narrator performance.
The narrator tells the story with the right amount of detail; enough to let you picture the world he inhabits. It's a very cruel and ugly world, but ironically, the book contains humor. A good read. My only criticism was that the narrator's Indian accent was very heavy and seemed phony. It was a detraction for me, but after about an hour I stop noticing. It's very much worth listening to.
Not sure how to describe this book. Took me a while to get into it. Loved his perspective on writing to China's leader. An honest and gripping portrait of a "hard" life in India. Beautiful character portrayals and scenic descriptions. John Lee is by far one of my favorite readers! Worth it just to hear him again.
A former globetrotting surf punk turned homeowner with ecclectic tastes. Classics, horror, crime, biographies or lectures? Yes please!
The story was outstanding and I look very much forward to getting further acquainted with this author's work! Additionally, in terms of the audiobook, the narrator does a great job by taking on an Indian accent and doing a good job of expressing the dark humour that runs throughout this book. I would highly recommend this one! One of my favs!
I have mixed feelings about this book. I understand that this is a short book but that's where author's skills ought to be judged. The story is not fluid instead jumping from character to character and from event to event. It moves pretty fast at the cost of coherency. The choice of subject and profession of the protagonist is excellent. It brings out the hollowness of the rich in India very well and also takes a good stab at how drivers and the like look at the world.
I have recommended Shantaram whole heartedly to anyone wanting to understand India. This book doesn't live up to the mark to be put in that category. It could have been the Great Gatsby of Indian literature.. but alas it's not!
Regarding the narration:
The choice of narrator is poor. John Lee might be a good narrator but this was a wrong pick for him. He took up a job he did half-assed. Pronunciations of many Indian words are inaccurate to the point of not recognizing the words themselves.
overall 2 stars. I don't regret taking the time to listen to it but probably wouldn't recommend this to anyone over other good books. Check out Upamanyu Chatterjee (not available on audible).
I'm not from India so can't comment on the narrator although it does seem odd to not have a native speaker (not sure what audiobook directors/producers are thinking of sometimes)
That said, I found the book captivating. The type of story - the intersection of rich and poor - is not uniquely Indian -- it could be written about any country. But this is the Indian take on it, with comical/pathetic insights and images of the lifestyles of the growing middle/upper-middle class, and their relationships with the service class.
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