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White Tiger [Hardcover]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (325 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Meet Balram Halwai, the 'White Tiger': servant, philosopher, entrepreneur and murderer. Balram, the White Tiger, was born in a backwater village on the River Ganges, the son of a rickshaw-puller. He works in a teashop, crushing coal and wiping tables, but nurses a dream of escape. When he learns that a rich village landlord needs a chauffeur, he takes his opportunity, and is soon on his way to Delhi behind the wheel of a Honda. Amid the cockroaches and call-centres, the 36,000,004 gods, the slums, the shopping malls, and the crippling traffic jams, Balram learns of a new morality at the heart of a new India. Driven by desire to better himself, he comes to see how the Tiger might escape his cage...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; 1st thus edition (2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1848870965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848870963
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (325 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 643,860 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'[An] extraordinary and brilliant first novel... Adiga is a real writer - that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision.' Sunday Times * "[A] blazingly savage and brilliant first novel... Not a single detail in this novel rings false or feels confected. The White Tiger is an excoriating piece of work, stripping away the veneer of 'India Rising'... 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 * "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 country as seen from the bottom of the heap; there's not a sniff of saffron or a swirl of sari anywhere. [Adiga's hero] is an enticing figure... Even more impressive is the nitty-gritty of Indian life that Adiga unearths the corruption, the class system, the sheer petty viciousness... You'll read it in a trice and find yourself gripped." - Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times * "Extraordinary and brilliant... Adiga is a real writer - that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision... The voice of Halwai - witty, pithy, ultimately psychopathic... [is] remarkable." - Adam Lively, Sunday Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 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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178 of 185 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, five-star 13 Jan 2010
`All I wanted was the chance to be a man'

- Balram Halwai

The White Tiger tears through the underbelly of India with an avaricious appetite. The way of life in the poorer parts of India is exposed through the eyes of Balram Halwai, a boy from a low-caste Indian family. His tempestuous journey takes him from the slums of provincial India through the servant classes of Delhi before arriving in the call-centre-capital, Bangalore.

Aravind Adiga's debut novel offers a hidden insight into the choices and options an Indian boy faces as he grows up. Through Balram we discover life in the `rooster coop' where, for the quiet murmuring underclass, options are few and desperation is great. Remarkable is the determination and ruthlessness that Balram displays to escape his fate. His unscrupulous actions are shocking, yet we are encouraged to empathise and forgive his lack of scruples. Clearly, Balram is an individual whose desperation outweighs his conscience. His rise from servitude to entrepreneurialism is beset on all sides by the inequities of an Indian society wallowing in corruption. He soon learns that to live life `as a man', he must be, quite literally, cut-throat in his approach.

The format of the narrative, structured as a letter to the Chinese Prime Minister, started and resumed each night, gives The White Tiger a sense of realism. Balram's present-time observations and ramblings darken the story into a confession. The narrative is intense and compelling; don't be surprised when you can't put this book down.
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29 of 31 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read - lifts the lid on "real" India whilst ...
Great read - lifts the lid on "real" India whilst keeping a smile on your face all the way through.
Published 1 day ago by A. Shariff
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
funny and vivid right from the start.
Published 16 days ago by Maureen Pierre
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed the ironic tone of the book which device highlights ...
Although I haven't finished the book yet, I have so far, enjoyed the ironic tone of the book which device highlights the abject poverty and superstition still highly prevalent in... Read more
Published 24 days ago by FILmBuff
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is very funny yet very thought fully written and shows the hierocracy that exists in Indian democracy.
Published 28 days ago by R.K.
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 2 months 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 3 months 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 3 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 4 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 4 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 4 months ago by Gabby Singer
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