The White Tiger (Review)

January 23, 2012

Book cover for "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga.Title: The White Tiger

Author: Aravind Adiga

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 304 (audio length: 8 hours 5 minutes)

Genre: Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

No saris. No scents. No spices. No music. No lyricism. No illusions.This is India now.

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 us 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. Born in a village in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for a wealthy man, two Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man’s (very unlucky) son.

Through Balram’s eyes, we see India as we’ve never seen it before: the cockroaches and the call centers, the prostitutes and the worshippers, the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger.

With a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn’t create morality and money doesn’t solve every problem – but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

I heard about this book for the first time shortly after it was published, through a student of mine. It was my first year of teaching, and a student wanted to read it for an independent book study. At the time, it looked like a good choice. Now that I’ve read it … well, I’m not sure whether some of the content was necessarily appropriate, but oh well.

Having said that, I was absolutely enthralled with The White Tiger. The most interesting part of the book is the focus on the life and circumstances of the narrator, particularly since novels tend to find more affluent people far more interesting. And granted, at the point at which he’s writing the book, the narrator has become rather more affluent than he started, but the story of how he got there is far from the typical hard-work-will-get-you-places narrative. Instead, the novel is more of a commentary on morality and the questionable choices that people make when faced with difficult life circumstances.

Basically, I don’t want to give too much away … but I do want to tell you that you should read this book. It is, by turns, utterly hilarious and completely thought-provoking. You definitely won’t regret picking up The White Tiger as your next read, in paper or audio form.

Rating:

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