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The White Tiger: WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2008 Paperback – 1 Mar 2009
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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
Adiga's portrait of the Indian capital is very funny but unmistakably angry... Keeps you guessing to the final page and beyond. * Financial Times * Dazzling... With The White Tiger, Adiga sets out to show us a part of [India] that we hear about infrequently: its underbelly... [Balram's voice is] brimming with idiosyncrasy, sarcastic, cunning. * Independent on Sunday * A masterpiece * The Times * Blazingly savage and brilliant * Sunday Telegraph *See all Product description
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This modern India is a global powerhouse of high-tech and software industries but what has been the cost to society? The extremes of wealth, ambition and opportunities are so clearly presented and the book does not hide from these disparities. The story is cleverly written with great dialogue that is humorous and blunt. Where the characters and backdrop are vividly written and you start feeling sympathy and encouragement for the entrepreneurial White Tiger. The narrative pulls no punches and presents a modern India that is dispassionate, amoral and brutal.
I enjoyed reading the book as it gave me a glimpse into another world but I wouldn’t be confident of recommending to a friend.
There is humour, which works well to relieve the often uncomfortable detail. A careful and fine balance makes the account realistic and compelling. A great read and if, like me, it's a book you'd not normally look at, I urge you to give it a go.
To my taste this was a wonderful book. Funny and disturbing at the same time as well as witty, a real page turner. India is a wonderful and mysterious place with disturbing social attitudes that promote injustice to those at the social bottom end. This novel will pull your sympathies in opposite directions. Im pleased i broke the habit of going for another piece of crap Amazon would sell me for a £1
Aravind is one of the best story tellers I've ever read, and once I picked the book up found it hard to out down again. The approach of making the story a series of letters should have been odd, but somehow it worked to retain the impact of telling the story in the first person without making me the reader feel responsible for some of the more appalling actions taken by both the narrator and other characters.
Not being familiar with Indian culture, I've no idea how realistic the story is, but it comes across as genuine. This is a very harrowing story of the coming to success of a poor but extremely determined young man, who overcomes his caste to become a very successful business man. It gives an in depth and very disturbing picture of modern Indian life, from an insight into the impact of being born into a particular caste, through the 'casualness' of arranged marriage and family life, lack of adherence to law and endemic bribery in terms of making your way in business (and life). The stories of how the death of the child on the road was dealt with was particularly disturbing, both in terms of the lack of guilt and the idea of asking your servant to take the blame. That it was considered part of your 'duties' to do this was hard to take. The murder of his boss was probably more shocking, but was told in less detail, so not so harrowing. Even though this was the event that really enabled the narrator to really step up. it was a monetary change rather than a mental shift. The mental shift had already happened.
The only thing that didn't really work for me, was being called the 'White Tiger'. I got the point, but was possibly too engrossed (and shocked) by the actual story.
At the risk of sounding prejudiced, I was so disturbed by some of the details, that it made me fear that some of this 'cut-throat' culture is being brought outside of India into more gentle cultures. But perhaps the shock was the point.
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