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The White Tiger: A Novel [Paperback]

Aravind Adiga
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 14 2008 Man Booker Prize
A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society. “This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you've never heard it before” (John Burdett, Bangkok 8).

The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.

Recalling The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, The White Tiger is narrative genius with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation—and a startling, provocative debut.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. First-time author Adiga has created a memorable tale of one taxi driver's hellish experience in modern India. Told with close attention to detail, whether it be the vivid portrait of India he paints or the transformation of Balram Halwai into a bloodthirsty murderer, Adiga writes like a seasoned professional. John Lee delivers an absolutely stunning performance, reading with a realistic and unforced East Indian dialect. He brings the story to life, reading with passion and respect for Adiga's prose. Lee currently sits at the top of the professional narrator's ladder; an actor so gifted both in his delivery and expansive palette of vocal abilities that he makes it sound easy. A Free Press hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 14). (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"Compelling, angry, and darkly humorous, The White Tiger is an unexpected journey into a new India. Aravind Adiga is a talent to watch." -- Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

"An exhilarating, side-splitting account of India today, as well as an eloquent howl at her many injustices. Adiga enters the literary scene resplendent in battle dress and ready to conquer. Let us bow to him." -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook

"The perfect antidote to lyrical India." - Publishers Weekly

"This fast-moving novel, set in India, is being sold as a corrective to the glib, dreamy exoticism Western readers often get...If these are the hands that built India, their grandkids really are going to kick America's ass...BUY IT." - New York Magazine

"Darkly comic...Balram's appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling." - The New Yorker

"Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is one of the most powerful books I've read in decades. No hyperbole. This debut novel from an Indian journalist living in Mumbai hit me like a kick to the head -- the same effect Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had. - USA Today

"Extraordinary and brilliant... At first, this novel seems like a straightforward pulled-up-by-your-bootstraps tale, albeit given a dazzling twist by the narrator's sharp and satirical eye for the realities of life for India's poor... But as the narrative draws the reader further in, and darkens, it becomes clear that Adiga is playing a bigger game... Adiga is a real writer - that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision. There is the voice of Halwai - witty, pithy, ultimately psychopathic... Remarkable... I will not spoil the effect of this remarkable novel by giving away ... what form his act of blood-stained entrepreneurship takes. Suffice to say that I was reminded of a book that is totally different in tone and style, Richard Wright's Native Son, a tale of the murderous career of a black kid from the Chicago ghetto that awakened 1940s America to the reality of the racial divide. Whether The White Tiger will do the equivalent for today's India - we shall see." - Adam Lively, The Sunday Times (London)

"Fierce and funny...A satire as sharp as it gets." - Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

"There is a new Muse stalking global narrative: brown, angry, hilarious, half-educated, rustic-urban, iconoclastic, paan-spitting, word-smithing--and in the case of Aravind Adiga she hails from a town called Laxmangarh. This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you've never heard it before. Adiga is a global Gorky, a modern Kipling who grew up, and grew up mad. The future of the novel lies here." - John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8

"Adiga's training as a journalist lends the immediacy of breaking news to his writing, but it is his richly detailed storytelling that will captivate his audience...The White Tiger echoes masterpieces of resistance and oppression (both The Jungle and Native Son come to mind) [and] contains passages of startling beauty...A book that carefully balances fable and pure observation." - Lee Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in a Decadent Society Nov. 21 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"The White Tiger" is this year's latest recipient of the Man Booker Prize for the best novel of the year. While the judges don't always get it right when selecting for this award, I think they made a fair choice this time. The story oozes with a sense of what it must be like for a young person growing up in a modern Indian village with no familial support or economic means to make it in life. The main character is an intelligent and literate young man named Balram, who was born an outcast but has miraculously risen to become a richman's driver in the capital city of Dehli. Upon hearing a radio broadcast of his Prime Minister telling his Chinese counterpart that India is a very civilized and virtuous society, he decides to do the unthinkable and write the Chinese premier and tell the real side of the story. What the reader gets here is the rough and rude reality of what it means for many Indian children growing up in an irrational environment that uses and abuses them for criminal and sexual purposes. While the government has banned the caste system, where people are perpetually assigned to hold menial jobs, it still flourishes in all parts of Indian life. "White Tiger", the name given the young boy while at school, becomes his moniker as he makes his way into the nefarious world of corrupt officials and crime bosses. Because he is literate, he has become groomed to be a driver and lackey for a rich family in Delhi. While some might see this as a step-up in terms of ascending the social ladder of Indian society, it is anything but. Balram becomes quickly acquainted with, and be expected to handle, the nastiest of situations that involve murder, cheating, bribery, and stealing. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Balram Halwai is the narrator of this darkly comical view of life in contemporary India. The main theme of the novel is the stark contrast between the `Darkness' inhabited by the working class and the rural poor and the `Light' occupied by the wealthy, as India rises to be a modern global economy. There are other contrasts included: the religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as the tension for individuals between family loyalty and independence.

Balram's story comes to us via seven letters to the Chinese prime minister who, Balram has decided, should be told the truth about India before a forthcoming state visit. And Balram's form of truth, and his own part in India's transition, makes for interesting reading.

Balram lived in the village of Laxmangarh, deep in rural India. He's the son of a rickshaw puller, and is unable - because of his family's poverty - to finish school. Despite being clever, and being promised a scholarship, Balram is forced to work. One of his jobs involves wiping tables in a Dhanbad teashop. When Balram learns of the high salary paid to car drivers, he learns to drive and gets a lucky break when a rich man from his village (known as `The Stork') hires him as a chauffeur for his son, Ashok, who lives in New Delhi. Living in New Delhi is a revelation for Balram, who quickly becomes aware of immense wealth and opportunity around him, and of the great chasm between the wealthy and the poor. These experiences make Balram worldlier and more ambitious, and he wants to be part of this glamorous new India.

So, how does Balram make his own transition from the Darkness into the Light? By murdering his employer, and assuming a new identity.
`White men will be finished within my lifetime', he tells, us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sad, memorable Aug. 25 2009
By Andrea
Format:Paperback
[Also posted on LibraryThing]

As I was reading this, it occured to me that if you relocated The Remains of the Day to India and then had the story reinterpreted by John Irving, the result would probably be very similar to The White Tiger. One afternoon, Balram Halwai hears on the radio that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is coming to India to talk to entrepreneurs. Balram sees himself as the ultimate entrepreneur and thinks his is the only story Jiabao really needs to hear. The novel is Balram's letter to Premier Jiabao, written over the course of one week, describing how he came to be such a success: his childhood in the poor village of Laxmangarh, his father's death, the beginning of his career as a chauffer to one of India's wealthy landlords, and his eventual determination to break out of a life of indentured servitude.

There is a lot of humour and wit in Balram's story, but there is also sadness and anger. Balram struggles with doing what is best for his family vs. what he wants for himself. He is greatly affected by his father's death and is determined to create a better life for himself but, as it becomes more attainable, Balram also struggles to maintain his own values in the face of what he sees as the corruption of the rich. In addition to all of these conflicts going on within Balram, we see an India that is struggling to find its own way while edging closer to civil war.

Through Balram's letters, we experience an India that is vivid in its sights, sounds, and smells. There is beauty but there is also chaos, there is the Light and the Darkness. Adiga's writing and imagery are fantastic throughout the book.

I can't say enough great things about The White Tiger. I loved it from start to finish and didn't want to put it down. It seems so simple as you read it but it gets under your skin, it gets in your head, and just takes over. I highly recommend this.

Overall: a funny, sad, and very memorable read. Highly recommended.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Adiga has the Indian caste system by the tail!
Autho Adiga has the Indian caste system by the tail in this enlightening & very well executed delivery. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Sheryl in Vancouver
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thought-provoking read
I was surprised at how intriguing this book was. It was a requirement for school but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me think about things I never thought to think about before. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Meagz
5.0 out of 5 stars The white tiger
One of the best books I have ever read. Exciting, challenging, a real adventure and different. Booker prize winner. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Colleen M. Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars The White Tiger
I loved the writing and the ideas and the background info culturally, socially and emotionally for those growing up in that milieu. Read more
Published 3 months ago by flora danziger
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if you're curious about working poor in India...
This is my first book by this author. I found it very disturbing to see the social inequality in modern India. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pat the cat
4.0 out of 5 stars The White tiger by Aravind Adiga
Although disturbing I found this book to be interesting and thought provoking. It took me a while to understand the characters but in doing so I had to keep on reading.
Published 10 months ago by mamap@shaw.ca
4.0 out of 5 stars Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize
Was given this book by a member of my book club. It is a unique novel set in India and told in the perspective of an entrepreneur. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Diana E. Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncaged
"The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga is a tremendously interesting novel, providing a look at society in India with a black comedic view which hooks the reader from the start. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2011 by Dave_42
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want it to end
Animals aren't intended to live in zoos, so why is that some people seem to be content to live in their self imposed or society imposed cages. Read more
Published on June 8 2010 by Heather Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I have read in years
If you read one book this year let it be this one. It Has an excellent plot, it is impossible to put down and most importantly, it is easy to read and well written at the the same... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2010 by Rafid Haidar
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