By September 3, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

Grabbing The White Tiger by the Tail

I finally found time for Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker-Prize-winning first novel, The White Tiger, and it’s easy to see why the book received so much praise. Books with unreliable narrators make for fascinating group discussions, and Balram Halwai, the titular White Tiger, is one of the most cagy cats you’ll ever encounter. Born into poverty in northern India, he rises by happenstance, slyness, and violence, first to the position of driver for a wealthy man, and ultimately to become an “entrepreneur,” running his own company. After reading the book, I’m still not sure whether to think of Balram as a hero or a sociopath, and I suspect that you, too, will be challenged by the moral complexities of Adiga’s novel.

The novel is written in the form of a long series of letters to a visiting Chinese minister. This choice allows Adiga to play with the positions of democracy and communism, with the different sociological approaches of the people of India and China, but you don’t have to be an expert on Asian culture to enjoy the book. You’ll learn plenty about modern India as you read (but wonder how much to believe, given the source.) At it’s core, this book is about social position, the powerful and the powerless, and that’s a concept that most of us understand viscerally, no matter what continent we call home. While his tone remains playful and persuasive, Balram is clearly simmering with anger underneath. Adiga has created an acid bath of very funny, very dark satire.

I recommend the audiobook heartily. Narrator John Lee clearly relished the chance to take on such a complex character, and he made the most of the opportunity. You might also want to take a look at a brief interview of Adiga from a few years back published here on Book Group Buzz.

If your group hasn’t already tried Adiga, I encourage you to consider this title. If you read it already, take a look at Adiga’s new book Last Man in Tower, due out later this month. It’s the story of the clash between a real estate developer and a retired school teacher who refuses to move out of a building scheduled for demolition, and the reviews in the UK have been excellent.



About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

1 Comment on "Grabbing The White Tiger by the Tail"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1.' Kate Z says:

    I, too, was a Johnny Come Lately to this novel and I listened to the audio book rather than reading it in the the traditional way and I absolutely agree – loved this book (and especially the audio book). Can’t wait to read his new book!

Post a Comment