Rummanah Aasi
  When Slumdog Millionaire was released, many people were shocked to learn about the slums of India. Unfortunately, the movie didn't shock me but rather reminded me of the poverty and injustices that ravage our society. I picked up White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which won the Booker Prize in 2008, and expected to be hit with the same gritty issues as the Oscar winning movie. From the book's synopsis, I was anticipating a dark, psychological/morality tale. What I did read instead was a dark satire about class and social structure of the working class in India.

Description (from inside panel): Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life--having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Review: White Tiger is a brutal account of what it is like to be a lower class citizen in India. The India that Adiga presents here is not the lyrical, exotic India readers are use to reading, but rather it's the seedy and corrupt nation ruled by those who have money and power. The novel is told over a period of seven nights and written in a letter format to the premier of China, who is expected to visit India and a person Balram thinks can a learn a lesson about the real India. Balram narrates his childhood, how he was employed as a chauffer, and how he managed to become a business man by simply murdering his boss.
  Balram is a clever, witty, and surprisingly resourceful narrator. He managed to survive by relying on his street smarts and keenly observing how his boss manages his financial and personal affairs. Though he he is constantly degraded and viewed as invisible to his employers, Balram begins to understand how his world works. Even though he rails and rants about corruption growing in India, he allows himself to be abused by his bosses and eventually benefits from the society he grows to hate.
  White Tiger was a strange reading experience for me. I didn't like Balram though I felt bad for his situation. I would have liked a bit more of an exploration of the moral ambiguity or how he is dealing with the guilt of killing his employer. I enjoyed the novel's dark humor and Balram's sarcastic voice. While I got to know him, I didn't really get a sense of his employers who remain one dimensional throughout the book. The novel abruptly ends and doesn't really give us any hints of what will happen to Balram in the future. While enjoyable, I don't think I would have picked it up if it had not been nominated or won the Booker Prize. Part existential and part satire, White Tiger is the antithesis to the lush, exotic stories generally told in novels about India.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, drug usage, and allusions to sex in the book. Recommended for adult readers only.

If you like this book try: The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
1 Response
  1. Jenny Says:

    Really nice review per usual Rummanah! I'm not a big fan of books that just abruptly end, I like at least a little hint that there will be more to come or and idea of what could happen in the future. Sounds like an intense read though!

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