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The White Tiger [Hardcover]

Aravind Adiga
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2008
Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India - by murdering his master."The White Tiger" presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking - from the desperate, almost lawless villages along the Ganges, to the booming Wild South of Bangalore and its technology and outsourcing centres. The first-person confession of a murderer, "The White Tiger" is as compelling for its subject matter as for the voice of its narrator - amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition, First Printing edition (1 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843547201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843547204
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aravind Adiga was born in Madras in 1974. He studied at Columbia and Oxford Universities. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for 2008. A former Indian correspondent for Time magazine, his writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Times among other publications. He lives in Mumbai.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Winning the Man Booker prize is something that most authors dream of, although -- ironically -- the reputation of the prize itself was under siege a few years ago. Books that won the award were acquiring a reputation of being difficult and inaccessible, but those days appear to be over -- and unarguable proof may be found in the 2008 winner, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Apart from its considerable literary merit, the novel is the most compelling of pageturners (in the old-fashioned sense of that phrase) and offers a picture of modern India that is as evocative as it is unflattering. The protagonist, too, is drawn in the most masterly of fashion.

Balram Halwai, the eponymous ‘white tiger’, is a diminutive, overweight ex-teashop worker who now earns his living as a chauffeur. But this is only one side of his protean personality; he deals in confidence scams, over-ambitious business promotions (built on the shakiest of foundations) and enjoys approaching life with a philosophical turn of mind. But is Balram also a murderer? We learn the answer as we devour these 500 odd pages. Born into an impoverished family, Balram is removed from school by his parents in order to earn money in a thankless job: shop employee. He is forced into banal, mind-numbing work. But Balram dreams of escaping -- and a chance arises when a well-heeled village landlord takes him on as a chauffeur for his son (although the duties involve transporting the latter's wife and two Pomeranian dogs). From the rich new perspective offered to him in this more interesting job, Balram discovers New Delhi, and a vision of the city changes his life forever. His learning curve is very steep, and he quickly comes to believe that the way to the top is by the most expedient means. And if that involves committing the odd crime of violence, he persuades himself that this is what successful people must do.

The story of the amoral protagonist at the centre of this fascinating narrative is, of course, what keeps the reader comprehensively gripped, but perhaps the real achievement of the book is in its picture of two Indias: the bleak, soul-destroying poverty of village life and the glittering prizes to be found in the big city. The book cleverly avoids fulfilling any of the expectations a potential reader might have -- except that of instructing and entertaining. The White Tiger will have many readers anxious to see what Adiga will do next. --Barry Forshaw


`An exhilarating, side-splitting account of India today, as well as an eloquent howl at her many injustices. Adiga enters the literary scene resplendent in battle dress and ready to conquer. Let us bow to him.' Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook

`Blazingly savage and brilliant... Not a single detail in this novel rings false or feels confected. The White Tiger is an excoriating piece of work... That it also manages to be suffused with mordant wit, modulating to clear-eyed pathos, means Adiga is going places as a writer.' -- Neel Mukherjee, Sunday Telegraph

'There is a new Muse stalking global narrative: brown, angry, hilarious, half-educated, rustic-urban, iconoclastic, paan-spitting, word-smithing... Adiga is a global Gorky, a modern Kipling who grew up, and grew up mad. The future of the novel lies here.' -- John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8

`Adiga's sharp, funny and angry book is a marvellous antidote to patronizing clichés about the exoticism of the Orient. Instead, his 21st century India is a disgusting place that stinks, swarms with people on the make and whose only redeeming feature seems to be the survival instinct that the amoral, irreverent Halwai has in buckets.' -- Tina Jackson, Metro (4 stars)

`Aravind Adiga's riveting, razor-sharp debut novel explores with wit and insight the realities of these two Indias, and reveals what happens when the inhabitants of one collude and then collide with those of the other... Halwai's voice - wised-up, mordant, sardonic, self-mocking and utterly without illusions - is as compelling as it is persuasive, and one of the triumphs of the book... His is a novel that has come not a moment too soon.' -- Soumya Bhattacharya, Independent

`Compelling, angry, and darkly humorous, The White Tiger is an unexpected journey into a new India. Aravind Adiga is a talent to watch.' -- Mohsin Hamid, Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant

`Dazzling... [The White Tiger]is an Indian novel that explodes the clichés... It's a thrilling ride through a global power... Brimming with idiosyncrasy, sarcastic, cunning, and often hilarious... Arch defenders of India's claim to be truly democratic, even-handedly prosperous and corruption-free (and these must be few outside of the Indian cabinet) might balk at The White Tiger. Everyone else, surely, will be seduced by it.' -- David Mattin, Independent

`Extraordinary and brilliant... Adiga is a real writer - that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision. There is the voice of Halwai - witty, pithy, ultimately psychopathic... Remarkable.' -- Adam Lively, Sunday Times

`In the grand illusions of a "rising" India, Aravind Adiga has found a subject Gogol might have envied. With remorselessly and delightfully mordant wit The White Tiger anatomises the fantastic cravings of the rich; it evokes, too, with startling accuracy and tenderness, the no less desperate struggles of the deprived.' -- Pankaj Mishra

`Unlike almost any other Indian novel you might have read in recent years, this page-turner offers a completely bald, angry, unadorned portrait of the county as seen from the bottom of the heap; there's not a sniff of saffron or a swirl of sari anywhere... The Indian tourist board won't be pleased, but you'll read it in a trice and find yourself gripped.' -- Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
176 of 183 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can the tiger escape his cage? 10 Dec 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Balram Halwai is a poor low-caste Indian, the son of a rickshaw-puller who somehow manages to crawl his way up to be an entrepreneur in Bangalore. He tells his story via a series of letters written to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier who is about to visit Bangalore. The poor parts of India are referred to as the Darkness which is a world filled with hunger, servitude and life-long debt. Modern Delhi is referred to as the Light. This is a world where men and women grow fat, have air-conditioned cars, mobile phones and guarded apartments with large TVs and computer games. But the Light has some very murky aspects to it - bribery, corruption and murder.

The story is told at a blazing pace. Balram is ambitious and astute. He does well to become a driver for a local landlord's family - but he wants more..... The dilemma for him is whether he can shake off his chains by honest means or whether some blood will have to flow. (I was reminded of A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam in which a widow's only way of keeping her children safe is to commit a crime.)

This is not a comfortable read - it is an angry and subversive book about the new India where any notion of the "trickle-down" theory of wealth creation is well and truly quashed. I am not surprised it won the Booker Prize. As a work of literature it is not as good a piece of work as, say, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (also about poverty in India) but it is funny, satirical and a blistering exposé of globalisation.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sardonic Tale of India 6 Dec 2008
In contrast to the main character of The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga received an extensive education from some of the best institutions available-Columbia undergrad and then Oxford. In his book, however, Balram Halwai, the White Tiger or sweet maker, grows up with a very minimal education, scratching by barely with the ability to read in a system designed, it seems to keep one ignorant rather than to educate. In fact the whole system of castes in India, in modern day India, through the eyes of Balram, tends to rigidly, forcefully and cruelly keep one either in the category of servant and poverty or of the privileged and well-off. To a minimal extent Balram bucks the system and rises above his father and becomes a driver for a wealthy family. Even the wealthy, however, must maintain their businesses and position through a corrupt system of bribes to politicians who stay in power through a democracy that disenfranchises certainly the poor and perhaps others as well.
The book is written well with energy and a steady string of either interesting or amusing anectdotes as Balram progresses from "the darkness" or poor, rural India to Delhi which appears as a city in a state of rapid but chaotic modernization where buildings are rising steadily for either malls or job centers for outsourced work from countries like the US. Again the inequities abound for Balram,the driver, and those like him, and the superior castes appear anything but. The book is fast-paced and entertaining.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare pleasure 25 Jun 2009
This little book came as quite a surprise to me. The standard of Indian literature being notoriously variable, I still never expected such a wonderfully assured novel in the mainstream.

It's not the usual arm-breakingly thick treatise most Indian authors seem to think necessary, just an ordinary novel. It's not riddled with obscure English words that would double the reading time if you looked them all up, it's just well-written. It doesn't need to write the history and geography of India, it just uses them as the backdrop. In short, it's very readable.

The central character is a likeable chap, whatever his sins, and the story is a good one, of his rise from the gutter and crimes committed upon him and by him. It's written in epistolary form, and therefore, almost by necessity, in the first person, and he's a very honest first person. He is not above pettiness, but almost rejoices in describing his own faults. I don't even remember half of the books I read, but I remember this one very well. It's a rare pleasure, like a white tiger.
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114 of 127 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read but a disappointing Booker. 17 Nov 2008
We agreed to read the Booker winner for book club, and this book was exactly what I expected. Far from sensationally exposing the little-known 'dark underbelly' of modern India, it is exactly the same as the all the other books exposing the little-known dark underbelly of modern India - we read Q&A last year and this book is pretty much the same, even inferior. In fact, exposing the little-known dark underbelly of modern India seems to be the most popular genre currently in print.

Having said that, this is not a terrible book, although I also didn't find it at all humourous. It is well paced and easy to read and if the author wanted to convey the utter hopelessness of everyone alive in India today, he did this well. Again though, and this is my criticism of all the other books like this, it is hard to believe that nearly everyone in India, rich or poor, is so lacking in empathy and compassion, is driven purely by greed and social status, living a kind of kill-or-be-killed solitary frontier existence. 'Family Matters' by Rohinton Mistry gives a far less obviously sensational portrait of a modern Indian family who happen to find themselves in a country rife with corruption and dead ends, rather than making this sensationalism the point of the book.

Nothing new, nothing outstanding - if I hadn't read this story dozens of times already I might have been more impressed. And was it really better than Rushdie's 'Enchantress' or Ghosh's 'Poppies'? Not for me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars slow start, roaring finish
Persevere ! It gets better and better!!
Brilliant indirect commentary on what it means to struggle upwards in India. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tara
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional
I was a bit hesitant to start this book, having read that it was about the dark underbelly of India. Read more
Published 1 month ago by novella
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a good Indian novel
This gives an interesting account of life in India, where the author grew up. Does he really have to commit murder in order to have a good life?
Published 2 months ago by Prof Mark Cowling
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful story
Well written story about life in India . After spending time there, I could really relate to some of their observations between rich and poor. Recommend reading it
Published 2 months ago by Nicola Gresham
4.0 out of 5 stars well narrated.
Liked The idea of individual breaking out of poverty, but not by killing. Wanted it to be not true that balram had killed his boss.
Published 2 months ago by Miss R Kapila
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncomfortable but mesmerising read
The White Tiger is an uncomfortable read. Written from the perspective of Balram Halwai, the son of a rickshaw-puller, it shines an uncompromising light onto the 'India of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gabby Singer
2.0 out of 5 stars Ugh...
I didn't finish this book - maybe I should have. I was part of a book club at the time, this was the chosen book. Just seemed pointless...
Published 3 months ago by Annabel Thomas
Sharp, observant and witty: an entertaining novel with real insights into aspects of contemporary India. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane Orr
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a must read
One of the best books I've read in a long time.
Once you start reading you simply cannot put it down.
Published 4 months ago by Elaine McConnell
3.0 out of 5 stars Tiger in your tank
I found this story difficult to read. At the same time I was compelled to finish it. I would read another by the same author just to compare another story.
Published 4 months ago by Cheryl lang
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