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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss it!
Sometimes a book is so good it's hard to do justice to it in a review. This is one of those books.

As the Vakola area of Bombay (as the author usually calls it) begins to come up in the world, the inhabitants of an apartment block are offered money by a developer to move out. One man, Masterji, a retired teacher, wants to stay. This is the story of how the...
Published on 23 May 2011 by FictionFan

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The White Tiger has escaped
I agree that it must be hard to produce a novel after reaching the unexpected heights of a Booker win so early in one's career as a novelist.

This continues the theme of how rapid change and exposure to western materialism is corrupting traditional Indian society and values, and rightly seeks a different theme from the prize-winning "The White Tiger", which...
Published on 19 Oct 2011 by Antenna


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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss it!, 23 May 2011
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
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Sometimes a book is so good it's hard to do justice to it in a review. This is one of those books.

As the Vakola area of Bombay (as the author usually calls it) begins to come up in the world, the inhabitants of an apartment block are offered money by a developer to move out. One man, Masterji, a retired teacher, wants to stay. This is the story of how the promise of wealth changes and corrupts a community. But it's also so much more than that. The author takes us into the lives of Masterji and his neighbours, letting us see their thoughts and dreams and fears. With humanity and humour he paints a picture of the friendships, favours and shared histories that bind a community together; and then shows how small envies and old grievances are magnified when that community is divided.

Bombay itself is a major character in the book. There is a real sense of how the city is changing as India becomes richer. The contrasts between the lucky rich and the frightening hand-to-mouth existence of the very poor are woven into the story, but subtly, so that the reader accepts these contrasts as easily as the inhabitants. The author also highlights the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the differing religions and cultures all forming one vibrant whole.

This book made me laugh and cry. It is full of warmth and the characters are drawn sympathetically and affectionately. In many ways an intimate portrait of a small group of people, but also an in-depth look at the strengths and frailties of human nature. By a long way, this is the best book I have read this year. Don't miss it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How evil happens., 23 Feb 2012
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Paperback)
I read "White Tiger" a while ago and remember being impressed even though I can't recall anything about it now.I doubt that I'll forget this engrossing novel very quickly.

The story is a simple one about how decent people can,given the right circumstances,do terrible things.Adiga's talent is to trace the descent into evil with meticulous care and observation.No one in this novel is without flaw,just as no one is totally without redemptive features.Even the central heroic character is marked with pomposity,vanity and self deception.All the characters are given the time and space to develop themselves,all are realised as personalities,not cyphers, because of the length of the novel and its concentration on one central theme.

Perhaps the true villain of the piece is the city of Mumbai,shown here as a mixture of aching poverty,slick wealth,glamour,greed,envy,stunning beauty and teeming humanity.Where you live here is what you are to the world.What you have is what matters about you.Destitution means living on the pavement and scrounging a living from the filth around you.Wealth means existing in glamorous otherworld made all the more sumptuous by its existing within sight of human misery.Maybe this explains the devastating impact that the prospect of wealth has on the characters in the novel or maybe we're all capable of inhumanity, given the right circumstances.Whichever way you look at it,this is a novel that transcends its time and setting even though Mumbai is vibrantly and fascinatingly a major player in it.

If I read another novel of this quality this year,I shall count myself lucky.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear structure allows Adiga's story-telling to flourish, 12 Jun 2011
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
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Set in modern day Mumbai, a rich builder is seeking to force residents of an old apartment block to sell their flats to enable redevelopment. Adiga takes has a clear group of people - the diverse residents of the apartment block; an outside agent to force change - the property magnate Dharmen Shah; and a time span that focuses the decision - with the offer needing to be accepted before the oncoming monsoon rains. The diversity of the residents and their varying willingness to accept the generous payouts of the builder create a perfect environment for a good story.

Some residents are in favour of taking the money, others have more commitment to the memories that the building offers for them and gradually, by hook or by crook the residents argue and come around to the builder's way of thinking, albeit with a little help sometimes. All that is except for a retired teacher whose reaction to the pressures of his fellow residents and the builder merely encourage a more intransigent position until he is the only one holding out. But without his agreement, everyone will lose out on the deal.

It's a lovely piece of story-telling that pits rich against poor, the past against progress and corruption against standing up for what you believe in. Loyalties are questioned and greed is pitted against loyalty and reputation.

Adiga manages to give a good feeling of the poorer areas of Mumbai without being overly descriptive. Much of the story progresses through dialogue and the residents of the apartment block are all clearly portrayed to such an extent that the reader wants most of them to come out on top - but of course only one side can win in the end. Definitely a recommended read. It's been quite a wait since his first novel, the Booker-winning The White Tiger, but it's been worth the wait as this is, for me, even more enjoyable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The White Tiger has escaped, 19 Oct 2011
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
I agree that it must be hard to produce a novel after reaching the unexpected heights of a Booker win so early in one's career as a novelist.

This continues the theme of how rapid change and exposure to western materialism is corrupting traditional Indian society and values, and rightly seeks a different theme from the prize-winning "The White Tiger", which highlights the gulf between rich and poor. In this case the community of residents in a proudly "middle class" Bombay tower block are split apart by the lure of a businessman's very generous offer for them to leave, to enable him to redevelop the site for luxury apartments. The story is also a study of human nature - the way in which formerly decent people turn on the one moral - and perhaps foolishly stubborn - soul who persists in refusing to be bought, thereby sabotaging their one off chance to get their hands on the windfall which they imagine will transform their lives.

Although I want to admire and enjoy this book, it seems to me to lack the sharp wit and verbal imagery, combined with creative imagination and originality of "The White Tiger". Despite the large cast of potentially interesting and moving characters, I found the scenes too plodding and pedestrian to sustain my interest. The opening pages also read more like a journalist's article, than a piece of creative writing in which the reader gradually works out what is going on, who the characters are and what they are like.

I may return to this book and try the author again with another title, but was a little disappointed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?, 3 Jun 2011
By 
Lost John (Devon, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Last Man in Tower is set in Mumbai (Bombay) and covers a closely-defined period from May to December 2007. The novel paints a realistic picture of the bustling, modern, go-getting city, including its finer points as well as the ever-present squalor. Aravind Adiga dedicates his book to his "fellow commuters" on the Santa Cruz-Churchgate local line, the very one used by some of the characters in his novel, confirming for us that he is indeed as familiar as it would seem with the streets, instant-food stalls and people of Vakola, east Santa Cruz, the Mumbai suburb on which the story is focussed.

The story is gripping, following the varying and developing reactions of the residents of a decaying co-operative tower block to an offer from a developer of two and a half times the real value of their flats. Most unhesitatingly accept, but a couple would rather stay put. That gives rise to conflicting loyalties, disputes within families, much open hostility, and more than a few internal conflicts. The developer too is convincingly portrayed, and we find his "left hand man" as riveting as a rabbit finds a stoat. His function is to perform the tasks the developer's right hand does not want to know about.

Reactions to the book are likely to be mixed, however. For many readers, it will be problematic that there is no-one in the book who we are invited to root for; no main character who is wholly good, give or take a few human foibles; no-one with whom we would want to identify; no unalloyed nobility. Descriptions of the dark depths of Mumbai's cess pools are easier to take than the suggestion that human avarice might extend even to ourselves. We would rather not confront the truth that the possible but uncertain prospect of sudden riches would engender in us thoughts, perhaps actions, similar to those of the residents of Vishram Society (Tower A).

Adiga ends Last Man in Tower on an optimistic note; "Nothing can stop a living thing that wants to be free." Little that goes before encourages that view, but perhaps Adiga's intention is to encourage us to break out of unhappy situations whose continuation is of our own making, and to shun avarice. If so, there is, after all, nobility in this novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Last Man In Tower, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Kindle Edition)
Not as instantly appealing as Arivind Adiga's " White Tiger", which I found the perfect read from the get go..
Last Man in Tower took a while to get into the story, glad I bothered to continue. Enjoyed rather than adored.
Quite a sobering story of life in modern India.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Greed, 7 Oct 2012
By 
K. Wright - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
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When the Vishram Society towers were erected in Mumbai in the 1950's, they were the best place in the neighbourhood. Now run down and surrounded by the slums of Vakola, it is no longer the desirable place it once was, with new hotels and luxury apartment blocks being built for the 21st Century. The residents of both Towers A and B are resigned to their destiny, when real estate magnate Dharmen Shah offers to buy out all of the residents for a significant sum of money (around£210,000 per family). The many residents agree to the terms, except for one, retired teacher Masterji. As the now wealthy families of Tower B move in to their new homes and the bulldozers move in, Masterji still will not sign. The only question remains: to what lengths will Masterji's neighbours go, to seal the deal.

"Last Man in Tower," starts with an interesting premise and the differing perspectives and principles between the characters offer an intriguing insight. However, overall the book felt much too long and was at times confusing due to the large numbers of characters (15 families reside in Tower A). Whilst the ending was satisfactory, it was quite obvious what the outcome would be and ultimately Avarind Adiga's third novel could have been so much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling - a good read., 21 Jun 2012
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Paperback)
I read this book over a long time because of frequent interruptions - life is like that sometimes. However, I kept going back and eagerly picking up where I left off.

The story is beautifully crafted hardly ever loses momentum but often mesmerizes with rich passages of flashback, dream-sequence and internal visualisations of the protagonist, Masterji.

The characterisation is excellent, and even though I worried at the beginning that too many were introduced at once, I had absolutely no trouble keeping them apart.

The themes of this novel are not pleasant. It describes how long-term loyalties and family devotion can be casually corrupted by money and how our pasts form us as surely as if we were made from dough. But this is not a simple fable. The complexity of the story is carefully revealed so that no character is entirely right or wrong. All have reason and motive. Masterji's inertia is examined in all possible lights, from heroic rebellion to selfish conservatism. He is portrayed as devoted teacher and husband and also as repellent bully and mad-man. His pride and humility are tossed on a sea of revelations which are too painful to endure.

Excellent read. Can't wait to get on with Aravind Adiga's more famous novel The White Tiger, but I am worried because it has those fateful words on the jacket, "Million-copy bestseller," so often millions are wrong.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The builder is the one man in Bombay who never loses a fight.", 29 Sep 2011
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
With a breezy, irreverent point of view and a fine eye for the kinds of details which make characters and scenes memorable, Aravind Adiga tells an often humorous morality tale about life in an area of Mumbai undergoing residential redevelopment. The novel both entertains and shocks, as Adiga explores the theme of moral compromise, which India seems to require of its citizens if they are to become financially "successful." The extreme poverty and the masses of other enterprising residents with whom everyone must compete make absolute morality impossible, Adiga seems to suggest, a luxury which few can afford. Here, the main characters are a group of residents in a decaying apartment house, many of them friends for many years, who are suddenly faced with the previously undreamed of possibility of great wealth.

The fifteen apartments of Vishram Society Tower A in Vakola, "the toenail of Santa Cruz," near Mumbai's airport, are home to relatively middle-class residents - a social worker, a hardware specialist, a retired accountant, a teacher, and a journalist, for example. All of them "pay taxes, support charities, and vote in local and general elections," but since the average Indian citizen earns the equivalent of $800 a year (in 2008 - 2009), they have little extra money to maintain their building and its infrastructure. "After four decades of monsoons, erosion, wind-weathering, air pollution...Tower A stands in reasonable chance of complete collapse in the next monsoon."

When Darmen Shah, who works for the Confidence Group, makes an offer to buy out the residents to build a super-luxury apartment building, most of them are ecstatic. He is offering the equivalent of $330,000 per apartment if they will vacate so he can raze their building and build his new development. The only catch is that all of the residents must agree to sell. "Masterji," Yogesh A. Murthy, a former school teacher whose wife has died less than a year ago, is the lone holdout. The pressure on him to sell is raised to excruciating and dangerous levels by the anxious residents and an equal, if not greater pressure, is exerted by the developers, who must have this property to reach their goals. Eventually, residents must justify their aggressive behavior, at least to themselves, as they abandon the past and their long personal relationships to ensure the promise of life-long wealth.

Adiga is an accomplished writer of description, imbuing his descriptions with the kind of detail that make the apartment house and its large cast of characters memorable. A door in the apartment house has "an eczema of blue-skinned gods" on a door; the floor of the apartment behind it is "an archipelago of newspaper and undergarments." The women carrying troughs of wet cement up to the upper floors of construction sites; Mary, the housecleaner who lives in the slums but has higher goals for her son; and Ramu, the mute Down Syndrome son of the Puris, all minor characters, become memorable through their detail. Unfortunately, the nature of the pressure on Masterji is not unexpected, nor are the deliberate acts designed to persuade him, and I suspect that though most readers will be impressed by the ethical stand taken by Masterji, they may also feel that this is unrealistic and, eventually, silly, in the face of the alternatives. The conclusion has some surprises, and the Epilogue brings the reader up to date in the conclusion. The novel, a morality tale, lacks a strong, unique thematic development, and the downward spiral, as everyone tries to force Masterji to give in, conjures up the kinds of nastiness which one regularly sees in other kinds of bullying. It is the extent to which these seemingly average people will go that makes this novel different and, eventually, memorable. Mary Whipple

The White Tiger
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stuck in its tower, this Greeneland tale takes too long to get going, 25 Jun 2011
By 
wolf (East Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
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There is a point when Adiga's latest suddenly comes to life. The last man holding out in the tower block, not prepared to sell to a developer, seems to have run out of ways to fight the builder, whilst others in the block are desperate that they might have missed the deadline for accepting the builder's deadline and prepare to try to force the old man's hand. The story gains dynamism, strength and tension. Sadly, by this point I was about three-quarters of the way through the book.

It isn't easy to pin point exactly why the rest of the book doesn't sparkle. It certainly contains some beautiful writing. Adiga has a gift, reminiscent of Graham Greene, to pick striking conceits and metaphors: young rich Indians compared to plump glossy chicken breasts on a rotisserie; a statuette of Ganesha at a lawyer's office is `like a soft white rat living on the staircase'.

It lacks the vibrancy of `The White Tiger', Adiga's Booker winning first novel, however. There is no sharp and witty narrator here and there is also rather less of the narrative drive of the first book. Part of the problem might be in its rather too diffuse focus on a number of characters. Whilst the issue is nothing like as severe as a glance at the rather intimidating list of all the residents of the tower block at the beginning might lead one to fear, there are seven or eight important view point characters.

In some ways it is closer to the short stories of `Between the Assassinations' as a result - where Adiga showed a gift for realising characters with deft strokes. There are many similarities between some of the characters shown there and the disappointed middle class inhabitants of the tower block. Thematically, there are strong similarities too: the individual's fight against corruption, principle against the combination of society and individual self interest. Here, for the central character at least, there are also Greene-like questions of divided loyalty.

But whilst in `Between the Assassinations' the stories of each individual command attention here the split focus seems to mean that many characters never properly develop. Even the main character, Masterji, felt flat, never fully developing a life of his own, for me at least, beyond the ticks and past incidents worked out in advance by the author. Others are weaker. The important character of Mrs Rego, who should be sympathetic and who plays an increasingly important role in how events unfold, remains uninteresting, one note and not wholly convincing.

This issue is highlighted because there is a character who has all the life and vibrancy lacking elsewhere. Mr Shah, the builder and developer and the white tiger of this book, is compelling. A self-made man, Mephistophelian in his dealings and determined to build his great project (`Gothic style, Rajput porch, Art Deco fountain. My life story in one building.') as a statement about himself but also as a gift to the future of the city that allowed him to drag himself up from his humble beginnings. In his struggles with his delinquent son, loved and also capable of being used as a prop in his business deals, his young mistress and `left hand man' he leaps from the page.

Intellectually, one suspects, Adiga's sympathy lies with the divided characters in the tower but his interest lies with the figure behind it all, pulling the strings.

In the end, then, Adiga's latest novel disappoints to some extent. He has not recaptured the formula that made `White Tiger' so successful. On the other hand, judged on its own terms, there book still has enough to make it a worthwhile read.
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Last Man in Tower
Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga
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