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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sardonic Tale of India
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...
Published on 6 Dec 2008 by Douglas P. Murphy

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars White Elephant
An easy read and a nice idea, but White Tiger does not live up to the hype for me. It is quite a good book - you flick the pages quickly and it is well paced throughout. Very rarely, however, is it ever really engaging.

Maybe it has been a victim of hype. As a Booker winner I was expecting more. Compared, for example, to something like Midnight's Children it...
Published on 3 Nov 2009 by Garth Algar


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sardonic Tale of India, 6 Dec 2008
This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
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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179 of 186 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can the tiger escape his cage?, 10 Dec 2008
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
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
By 
R. Wilson "A must-read" (Bournemouth) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Tiger (Paperback)
`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.

Adiga makes no effort to conceal the objections he has of Indian society; he ridicules the incompetence of the Indian police, snarls at the rife corruption in politics and through the story of the death of Balram's father, highlights the appalling state of the health system in provincial India. The recipient of the letter, the Chinese Prime Minister, offers the book a political dimension. However, the novel primarily focuses on the social infrastructure of India.

The White Tiger is rich in detail and powerfully gripping - a must-read for anyone interested in the cultures of the East and a desire to understand a social sphere vastly different from the West. Pick up this book to see the world at the other end of your telephone receiver.

Asked whether he was a God or man, Gandhi replied that he was merely `awake while the rest of us were asleep'. The White Tiger is an enlightening alarm call.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare pleasure, 25 Jun 2009
By 
Anthony Horwood "Bruce" (Paris) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Tiger (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not engaging, 28 Feb 2009
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
Balram Halwai sits alone in a seemingly palatial office in Bangalore and over the course of seven nights writes a series of open letters to the chinese premier who is soon to visit India.

In his letters Balram gives an account of his life. Born the son of a Rickshaw puller in poor rural India, he tells us how he struggled against the poverty of his background, learning to drive, escaping to the city as chauffeur to a rich family, and eventually becoming an entrepreneur in his own right. However this is not a straightforward uplifting rags to riches story. It is a dark tale of exploitation, corruption and murder.

This is a book about the dark side of progress, about the exploitation of the poor by the rich, about the corruption of democracy, but above all about ambition, about how it is a driver for freedom but how in overreaching itself it becomes ultimately destructive.

The book does not take sides, it looks at the old India (the Darkness) and the new India (ironically referred to as the Light), the ambitious and the unambitious, the rich and the poor, considers them all, and damns them all equally.

The White Tiger is a book full of imagery and symbolism, from the title itself which speaks of the narrator's feelings of uniqueness, through the terrific recurring metaphor of the rooster coop, to the repeated image of an empty fort. (the ultimate emptiness of ambition ?).

It is a wholly entertaining read. As a reader it picks you up and pulls you along at a terrific pace. However I don't feel it deserves five stars because the characters don't engage. They are all a little two dimensional, we don't really get inside them.

Overallthough, recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A readable Booker Prize winner!, 29 Oct 2008
By 
David Morley (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
I saw the author on tv recently say that he wanted to write about the 'real India' and if he has succeeded (I've not visited the county) I'm not surprised the novels's jacket suggests that India's tourist board won't be pleased with the result.

The coutry is aflow with sewage and dirt and only money and ruthless ambition will keep you out of it: very Dickensian. Adiga portrays an India where everyone in authority welcomes a backhander and the only way for a poor person to succeeed is through murder, ar at the very least by allowing themselves to be corrupted (like the fellow villager who finds end up with an important government job).

The narrator is writing to China's premier to tell him about the 'real' India in the run up to his visiting the country. He wants to lift the veil on the country and tell the man how things really are. I found what he described shocking and depressing. His take on Indian culture was illuminating and he seems to conclude that whilst India may soon emerge as a super power few of the country's problems are likely to be addressed for its ordinary citizens. Like China found during the Olympics, India may also have to deal with increased criticism of it's social structure as its international profile increases.

A lot of people refer to the novels humour but I didn't find any of it particularly funny. What I did find was a great read, a readable Booker winner (!),a book that showed me another world and one that made me think. Read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars White Elephant, 3 Nov 2009
This review is from: The White Tiger (Paperback)
An easy read and a nice idea, but White Tiger does not live up to the hype for me. It is quite a good book - you flick the pages quickly and it is well paced throughout. Very rarely, however, is it ever really engaging.

Maybe it has been a victim of hype. As a Booker winner I was expecting more. Compared, for example, to something like Midnight's Children it seems lightweight and ordinary. I loved the idea of a great Indian novel which captures the darker side, the "underbelly", of modern India and all the accolades and hyperbole spattered across the cover lead you to believe that that's what this is. Unfortunately White Tiger is not a great novel, it is a decent rags-to-riches story of an unsympathetic character told in a contrived and moderately annoying way.

Worth a read, but by no means the masterpiece it's made out to be.
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115 of 128 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read but a disappointing Booker., 17 Nov 2008
This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite so rare - a Booker Prize winner thats not great, 10 Feb 2010
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The White Tiger (Paperback)
"The White Tiger" is your classic rags to riches tale despite the cover blurb claiming otherwise. If you've seen "Slumdog Millionaire" you'll be familiar with the premise: young boy grows up in crushing poverty, makes a few daring decisions, and then ,after one final, large obstacle, succeeds at moving away from his poor background and becoming rich. The difference here is that in "Slumdog" the boy goes on a gameshow while the boy in this book, Balram, murders his employer and steals a bag of money.

It's not a terrible book. The plot - boy murders employer - is interesting in that I wanted to find out how he did it and what happened but there's so much dross to go through in order to get there. The "facts" about modern India in case you weren't aware - the government is corrupt, people in the rural areas experience illiteracy, devastating poverty and are very religious, the cities are full of poor and rich alike, there's a lot of traffic on the roads, and India is a hot country. A few anecdotes aside, there's not a lot here to hold your interest. And then we get to the murder and what dyou know? It's a murder. Happens very matter of factly and it's over. No extenuating circumstances that would differ from the narrator's assertion of murder, nothing to make you think "maybe there's something more complex to this" - nope. He murders him and takes his money. That's it.

Balram, the narrator and driver/servant, reminded me of Ishiguro's Mr Stevens from "The Remains of the Day", in that they were both servants, both were first person narrators and both were infatuated with their employers to the point where their loyalty blinds their employers' actions until they can no longer fool themselves. The difference being that Mr Stevens was a complex and brilliantly realised character while Balram is merely an unlikeable cynic. There's no complexity to his character - he just wants to get ahead - but then there's no complexity to any of the characters in the book. His employer is first portrayed as enlightened having spent time in America but we find out he's not. Balram's family, while mentioned frequently, never become more than the sum of their parts - his gran is a traditionalist matriarch, his brother becomes the usual older brother turned serious father like figure, etc.

It's a quick read and I managed it in a couple of sittings. Even though it's accessible and interesting to a point, I cannot fathom how this is Booker Prize winning material. It reads very much like a first novel even with clumsy Literary ploys - the framing device of a 300 page letter to the Chinese Premier (why was this done again?), and the tortuous metaphor at the end when Balram, for some reason it's never explained, goes to a zoo before he murders his employer and looks eye to eye with, yes, a WHITE TIGER. Well done Adiga, shoehorning that reference in at the last minute, it sits very awkwardly.

Not a dreary book but very average, no wonder readers are quite ambivalent towards award winning books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, hugely entertaining, 4 Jan 2010
This review is from: The White Tiger (Hardcover)
I was very pleasantly surprised by The White Tiger. As a Westerner who has never visited India, and whose only real appreciation of Indian culture is the Chicken Jalfrezi I occasionally enjoy, I took some time to get around to reading this book. (I had bought it with a number of other Man Booker shortlisted novels for 2008, and somehow the others seemed to take my fancy more quickly.) But I was very quickly hooked by the narrative, which is told at a fast pace, and I finished the book in a handful of sittings.

At a superficial level, I found it a witty, well-written and entertaining novel, in which the main character, Balram Halwai, is part-compelling and part odious. Some of his side remarks are pretty funny in an unintended way, for example showing his utter ignorance of the modern world, but his actions are not really defensible and, in the final analysis, he's really quite a ruthless rogue. At a deeper level, the novel depicts the two Indias - the Darkness from which Balram has come and in which 99% of the population will remain, poor and without prospects, and the Light, occupied by the rich, Western-influenced elite. Some reviewers have complained that Adiga presents a very stereotypical India in which all the cliches of poverty are in abundance, and I can't really comment on the accuracy of this depiction, but I will say that Adiga makes his point very well by juxtaposing the two types of reality in India. It is a really thought-provoking novel in which themes of morality, development and responsibility come to the fore in a witty style.

Altogether, I really enjoyed The White Tiger and look forward to more good work from Adiga in years to come. Treat yourself and buy a copy from Amazon today.
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The White Tiger by Andreas Petermeier (Perfect Paperback - Jun 2010)
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