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)
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
Call me a Westerner; I don't mind. I like a book that has interesting characters and an interesting plot. I know that this author has won awards for this book, and I know that the Man Booker Prize is highly esteemed. However, I think it is a British/Continental award primarily, and the differences between those audiences and Western audiences is great. The book wanders in a completely directionless way through the life of the main character, who we are assured becomes an "entrepreneur" in Bangalore. However, the way in which he does this is inexplicable as far as I am concerned. Again, this may be part of a large East/West dichotomy of which I am ignorant. I trust that most Audible readers are Westerners who would like books they read to be accessible rather than plotless and confusing. One thing I can say that is clearly positive: John Lee's voice is by itself one of the most entertaining things I have ever listened to. If he were telling a story than made more sense, I would find a great deal more enjoyment in the endeavor of listening. The poverty of Indians is described in revolting detail. The trials that these people have to go through just to find a way to make a living for themselves and their families: these are horrendous journeys which would bring most of us Westerners to our knees. However, these struggles do not a novel make. At numerous points this book feels much more like reporting than the work of a fiction writer. All right all ready, I am convinced of the horrifying, degrading poverty above which the lowest caste Indians can barely rise. I understand that the waters of the Ganges River are so disgusting and polluted that you dare not go anywhere near the river lest you become ill with an indescribably vicious wasting disease. I know that the ravenous corruption that runs through the government/bureaucracy that is the structure of the country is impenetrable: I really don't need to hear that much more about it. On the whole, however, I would vastly recommend Shantaram over this book. I found it immediately interesting, full of characters that grabbed me and plots that took me happily careening from one state of India to the next. My interest in Shantaram almost never failed, and that is saying a good deal, as I usually have trouble approaching four-volume tomes. Take my advice here, though. As a average American, I found Shantaram to be wildly entertaining and informative when compared to White Tiger. I cannot recommend White Tiger to anyone but the most sophisticated student of the subcontinent, a person who delights in being entertained by something which I find to be rather less than a novel, and more like an expansive, reportorial description of the daily life of the lower castes in India.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
There are so many books today following the same themes of vampires, sex and/or murder.
It is a great day when you discover something different, deeper and better.
Here's that book. A very interesting book indeed. Get some insight into the culture of India and enjoy a very engrossing story.
This is a 5 star book. Highly recommend! Perfectly presented too.
Chris Reich, TeachU
Unafraid to read from any genre.
I love narratives that concentrate on few characters. The main reason is that this naturally allows for greater internal exploration (as did my favorite read of the year so far, The Sheltering Sky). Some books are about events and some books are about people. I tend to favor the latter, like this novel The White Tiger, winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
Here's a book that cleverly uses an epistolary structure, with main character, Indian entrepreneur Balram Halwai, penning a long letter to the visiting Chinese Premier. It's interesting what this little conceit does to the writer/reader relationship, allowing for a natural tendency to explain elements of the story to an audience unfamiliar with Indian culture, without the usual tricks of narration used to bring this about. Additionally, there is something about this idea of being directly addressed through a letter that makes one maintain focus on the story to a greater degree. It's a fantastic idea in this case, especially as the thematic territory of the story has so much to do with the ways of Indian culture in the 21st century. Balram details his humble beginnings and then (and here's where most of the story centers) lucks into the job of a chauffeur for a wealthy Indian family. In this way, we get to see so much of the class differences in India - a dynamic that author Aravind Adiga beautifully elucidates through the observations and realizations of Balram. I began in a state of interest with this book, but as the story deepened, I became absolutely engrossed. Really enjoyed this one!
The narration by John Lee was flawless.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
I bought this book some time ago, and if I ever knew that it was a Booker Prize winner, by the time I got around to listening to it I had forgotten. As a result, I approached it without particularly high expectations. What a wonderful surprise. Brilliant and brilliantly read. Adiga writes in that deceptive, low key which, when used artfully, pulls us along effortlessly but inexorably toward unanticipated delight. He fascinates with entirely original detail, constructing an engrossing world from which I had no desire to depart. Every note rings true, and all of it is superbly well served by John Lee's extraordinary vocal characterization. This one is really something special.
The White Tiger provides the 'backstory', told in an earthy, amusing, authentic voice, of the 'Flat World' phenomenon. Those of us in the US who work day in and out with Indian colleagues, mainly via phone and email, have only the barest perception of the personal, cultural origins of our coworkers.
I enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, non-fiction, historical fiction genres. Liked Stormlight, Mistborn, GoT. Last read: Shadows of Self
This book definitely fell too short for my expectations. Being an Indian, I definitely didn't like the accent and the mis-pronounced words but I knew that before buying the book. The caste system and the slave master relation is almost precise but sometimes exaggerated. I didn't like the fact that there is very little remorse shown from the protagonist's perspective for the heinous crime that he commits. Other than that, an ordinary story with a funny accent. Thank god it was short.
I'm not a great judge of the Indian language accent or anything else. John Lee is amazing. I think he's the best narrator I've listened to and I've listened to a lot of them.
His Indian accent added enormously to the enjoyment of this audio book. Whether or not he mispronounced some words is beyond me and I don't much care. This wasn't a textbook. It was entertainment.
Listen to this book.
I have listened to The White Tiger twice in its entirety and several times partially and have several passages memorized. I am sure I will listen to it again and again. It is a compelling, horrific, and completely entertaining story, told with an ironic tone by a captivating first-person narrator. It is read by the enormously talented John Lee, who has become my favorite narrator (listen to him also reading "Snow" and parts of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society").
I have high expectations for the Booker winners. When I read one I expect to be completely blown away by lyrical writing, great characters, gripping plot. Don't get me wrong, White Tiger is excellent. But I found myself comparing it to the Booker list and it came up short. It's a great story, a fun story, an excellent insight into India. Read it. Laugh and enjoy. But if you're looking for Booker winners specifically, you may want to turn to something else.
Anything John Lee Reads about India is going to be special. The books are chosen well and as in this one he puts you in it and allows you to feel the content.
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