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The White Tiger: A Novel [Paperback]

Aravind Adiga
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 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 10 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sardonic Tale of India Dec 6 2008
Format:Paperback
In contrast to the main character of The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga received an extensive education from some of the best institutions available-Columbia undergrad and then Oxford. In his book, however, Balram Halwai, the White Tiger or sweet maker, grows up with a very minimal education, scratching by barely with the ability to read in a system designed, it seems to keep one ignorant rather than to educate. In fact the whole system of castes in India, in modern day India, through the eyes of Balram, tends to rigidly, forcefully and cruelly keep one either in the category of servant and poverty or of the privileged and well-off. To a minimal extent Balram bucks the system and rises above his father and becomes a driver for a wealthy family. Even the wealthy, however, must maintain their businesses and position through a corrupt system of bribes to politicians who stay in power through a democracy that disenfranchises certainly the poor and perhaps others as well.
The book is written well with energy and a steady string of either interesting or amusing anectdotes as Balram progresses from "the darkness" or poor, rural India to Delhi which appears as a city in a state of rapid but chaotic modernization where buildings are rising steadily for either malls or job centers for outsourced work from countries like the US. Again the inequities abound for Balram,the driver, and those like him, and the superior castes appear anything but. The book is fast-paced and entertaining.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want it to end June 8 2010
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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.

This is one of the questions that Aravind Adiga poses in his debut novel White Tiger. I listened to the audio book over the past two weeks, and found that I never wanted to press the 'stop' button. If it had been a paper book, I would have carried it around with me non-stop, peeking pages whenever I had a free moment. Even now, I am planning to purchase at least one copy.

Balram Halwai was born in a small rural village into a family of the caste of 'sweet makers'. His father was a rickshaw puller and his brother worked in a teashop. Balram started out following his brother, though while his brother strictly did his job, he chose to listen to the talk of the patrons and learn more about the world. He longed for more than cleaning up the slops of others. Balram decided to become a driver and work his way up in the world.

Balram is telling the story of his life and his rise in status as an entrepreneur in a series of late night letters to the Premier of China, who is schedualed to visit India in the near future. In his letters he admits to being a wanted murderer and proceeds to explain to the Premier why his earlier actions were warranted.

Mr. Halwai likens his early life to that of a caged animal at the zoo. His position is that even if you open the door to the cage, the animals will remain inside the bars, that is what they know of life and they expect no more. It was interesting to see how Balram forced open the doors of his cage and ran out, free.

I'm not sure why, but I was hooked on this book from the first pages.
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I am satisfied with this product it was as described.
Published 1 month ago by Sandeep
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Book was well written although I was disappointed in the ending. Will read more by this author, Aravind Adiga.
Published 2 months ago by Linda Mizzivl
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent!
Published 2 months ago by Len gibson
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 3 months 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 4 months 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 4 months 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 6 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 9 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 13 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 18 months ago by Diana E. Young
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