The White Tiger
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The White Tiger

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  87,274 ratings  ·  6,520 reviews
Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Free Press (first published 2008)
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best Indian Books
3rd out of 515 books — 1,499 voters
Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Booker Prize Winners
6th out of 48 books — 1,299 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nandakishore Varma
Before I begin my review, a statutory warning to all my patriotic Indian brothers and sisters... this is India-bashing, large scale. If you are the sort of person who gets all worked up when any aspect of India is criticised, this book is not for you.

That said, Arvind Adiga bashes India where it has to be bashed. No honest reader will be able to dispute that the picture of India he paints is a false one. You will find the majority of Indians embarassedly changing the topic when Bihar (the state...more
Jwala
Well the stories of murderers and psychopaths are generally like cakes to most of us(and i am no exception). I either love such protagonists or hate them whole-heartedly. Coming to Balaram, the situation is different. I had never felt anything for him even after reading 300 pages. I didn’t even hate him and I was completely indifferent towards him mainly because I felt that his character is artificial and inconsistent.
Every time I read a cynical work or a satire I feel that I have become a bit...more
Mark
Balram Halwai grew up in the Darkness -- the immense swath of rural India where the poor vastly outnumber the rich and where the right of the rich to oppress the poor is rarely questioned.

By dint of his intelligence and ambition, he becomes the No. 2 driver to a local landlord nicknamed The Stork, and when he discovers the No. 1 driver has been hiding a secret, is able to displace him and eventually move to Delhi with the landlord's Westernized son, Mr. Ashok, and his modern wife, Pinky Madam.

Qu...more
Paul
The perfect companion piece to Slumdog Millionaire, and if you didn't like that movie, you won't like this book for the same reasons. It's a no-nonsense bulldozing mordant splenetic jackhammer of a story written as a tough slangy 300 page fast-reading monologue. It's a novel of information, not art. It tells you all about modern India with a traditional rags-to-riches fable. Our hero murders his employer unapologetically, and that's how he gets his riches. This is not rocket science. This is sma...more
Boof
Feb 15, 2009 Boof rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Boof by: Christmas present
I have just this minute finished this book and I can already tell that it will be one of those books that I will think about often. It's not a book whose plot I can easily explain, or a book that I can easily fit into a particular genre on my shelves, but my God did it pack a powerful punch. I have hardly been able to put it down between sittings.

The books is narrated via a letter from Balram Halwai, a slum-dweller-turned-driver-turned-murderer-turned-entrepreneur, to the Chinese President befor...more
Rupert
Best contemporary novel I've read this year. Antidote for the pastel lyricism of most mainstream novels coming out of India and a wonderful social satire with savage bit. Kind of like Terry Southern's best work if he hadn't been all weeded up and goofy.
An image from it that sticks with me is how Ghandi's image gets appropriated by the current Indian bureaucracy. Whenever the narrator encounters the hanging Ghandi portrait he sees it as a symbol of "bribes work here, corruption at work". Perhap...more
Anthony
I was travelling one evening by train from Yeovil Junction in Somerset to Woking in Surrey and noticed that one of the passengers, a woman with long beautiful curly hair, was buried in 'The White Tiger'. On English trains you have a corridor opposite the toilets, also used for storing bicyles on the journey, where there are also two or three collapsible and uncomfortable seats. It is rather noisy but this was where the girl with curly hair was sitting and for the two hours of the journey she bar...more
Jeff
Mar 29, 2008 Jeff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoyed Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" and Pears' "The Portrait"
A stunning first person narrative about a self-proclaimed murderer and entrepreneur. Balram Halwai, the complex narrator of the book, describes, in an obsessive, single-focued, unapologetic letter, his journey out of poverty from the Indian Darkness. It is a story about ambition, corruption, and power -- an amazing story about how one person in a country of servitude escapes his own station to become a man. Is he a visionary? Is he an iconoclast? Is he an amoral monster? The reader goes on a ver...more
Paul
It’s taken me a while to decide how I feel about this one, which is probably an indication that I didn’t really engage with the book.
The novel is written in the first person and is essentially epistolary (written to the Chinese leader; I found this way of presentation quite clumsy). It concerns Balram Halwai who is brought up in poverty in a small village, son of a rickshaw driver who dies from TB. Balram’s journey takes him from the village and menial jobs, to the job of driver-cum-servant for...more
Whitaker
Dec 09, 2009 Whitaker rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Whitaker by: Brad Simkulet
I don't know how many people on Goodreads have live-in servants. For those living in the West, I suspect very few if any. That peculiar institution has died out there, and most would now find it intrusive and demeaning. The institution is, however, quite alive and well in many parts of Asia where maids--usually from the Philippines, Sri Lanka or Indonesia--form part of the family nucleus. I do say "family nucleus" because a lucky or successful maid will insinuate herself into the family such tha...more
Lynda
"If we were in India now, there would be servants standing in the corners of this room and I wouldn't notice them. That is what my society is like, that is what the divide is like."--Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger, The Man Booker Prize winner of 2008, has unsettled critics and readers alike. It is a provocative book as it paints an unflattering portrait of India as a society racked by corruption and servitude, exposing the country's dark side. This grim world is far removed from the glossy images...more
Jessica
Postcolonial lite. I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be reading while I listen to MIA and rock last season's mirrored "ethnic chic" from Urban Outfitters. To show that, you know, I'm a citizen of the world, and a really hip westerner who gets the shifting forces of globalization.... did I feel a bit pandered to? I did feel a bit pandered to. Just a bit, now. Oh, this book was okay.

Fine, actually it was an entertaining and engaging rags-to-riches story about injustice and inequality in a c...more
Shovelmonkey1
Apr 23, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like a little controversy with their booker prize
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I went through a manic phase of reading e-books because I was given a Kindle. Now that my lust for coverless button pressing has been assuaged, I'm back on a good solid diet of normal books. So, a moment to pause and consider the joy of a book cover. This edition of The White Tiger has a really appealing cover; nice illustrations, bright and unusual with a bit of a quirky look. The cover itself has that cool, smooth, matt effect which makes me want to rub it against my face. Ok, I will admit it,...more
Blair
Told in the form of a lengthy letter relating the protagonist's childhood, career, and - ultimately - his crimes, this is a dark, unsettling novel that also acts as an unflattering portrait of modern-day India. Our unreliable narrator and anti-hero is Balram Halwai, a dubious 'entrepreneur' residing in Bangalore. For reasons never really explained, he is writing a confessional document, addressed to a Chinese politician, telling the story of his life. Over the course of seven nights he describes...more
Rowena
Feb 08, 2013 Rowena rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rowena by: Dorcas
This was a great, darkly humorous book a friend recommended to me stating that it was her favourite book of 2012. I can definitely see why.

In this novel we find Balram Halwai, a sweetmaker from a small Indian village. He is from a low caste and finds a job working as a servant/driver to a rich Indian man. Halwai eventually escapes from his caste in a very unconventional way; by killing his boss. He then narrates his actions to the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, whom he admires greatly.

This book...more
Brad
Aravind Adiga claims Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as the forebear of his Booker Prize Winning novel The White Tiger. I wish I could speak to that relationship (I really must get around to reading Ellison), but there was another relationship I found that was important to me: Balram Halwai (aka "The White Tiger," aka "Munna," aka "Country-Mouse," aka Ashok Sharma) and Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov.

Balram is a sort of anti-Raskolnikov.

Their story is much the same but there is one key difference: Balra...more
Cynthia
This is the kind of book that many people try to write and few succeed at. The White Tiger is an awesome book and anyone who is even remotely interested in India will enjoy it. The author is a former Time magazine writer and the first great thing he accomplishes is painting an effortless picture of modern India, from its poorest slums to the wealthier areas where more Westernized Indians make a living doing computer and telephone work for American companies (and then go spend their salaries at s...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Mar 14, 2010 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: LFPC
The central character and narrator of this novel -- Balram, the "White Tiger" -- is like an Indian Raskolnikov without the guilt. Unlike Dostoevsky's prototypical anti-hero, however, Balram's crime is founded on a morality and world view we can actually root for (well, maybe that's my own morality and world view showing through. Still.)

This novel is at once heart-wrenching, disgust-provoking and deeply satirical (also very, very funny). It seethes with anger and conveys well -- primarily throug...more
Tea Jovanović
I've read this book while it was still unpublished manuscript and fell in love immediately... Because it gave me the same pleasure as Vikas Swarup's Q&A...
Spudsie
Nov 12, 2008 Spudsie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Man Booker readers
Ehhhh...it was okay.

Well, it was probably better than okay. Since it won the Man Booker prize my expectations were pretty high. And while the story kept my attention, I wasn't completely "sold" on some of the decisions and actions of the main character. They didn't ring true.

I really enjoyed the letter-style of the book. I certainly don't regret spending the time reading it.

I suppose I just expected something more.
Riku Sayuj
Feb 04, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Riku by: Puneet Raheja
Why would a book like this win any award whatsoever? Sigh...
K.D. Absolutely
May 16, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010 edition)
"This won the Man Booker Prize 2008"

I don't care. Neither did I like 2005 winner, John Banville's The Sea.

"But you finished reading this in just a day. That means it is interesting for you too"

In a way, yes. In an interview, Mr. Avida said that he wanted entertainment to be the main reason for anyone to want to read this book. Entertainment that would hook them to the end. In a way, I finished the book to find out how would Balram Halwai kill his employer, Mr. Ashok and what would be the compel...more
Kinga
There was a time when I stopped reading Indian novels. I just couldn’t read another sari&curry story about women and all their problems. All these books started to blend in my head into one behemoth of a novel.
So when I read on the back of ‘White Tiger’ that ‘unlike almost another Indian novel you might have read in recent years, this page-turner offers a completely bald, angry, unadorned portrait of the country as seen from the bottom of the heap; there’s not a sniff a saffron or a swirl of...more
Crystal
An interesting read - and a perspective on India I'm glad to have, really. Addressing the caste system, corruption, greed, money, all the despotic things humans have created.

Makes you angry, but the voice of the protagonist is ironic enough that you can't help but chuckle outloud.
Will Byrnes
This is a dark, biting, unsubtle look at 21st Century India, stuck in the mire of a corrupt, cynical past, and debauching and slaughtering its way into a corrupt and cynical future, told by a working class fellow who, through ambition, intelligence, and a willingness to be utterly ruthless is clawing his way up the rungs of the Indian class ladder. It paints a bleak picture, offering little optimism for an India that will be any cleaner, fairer or more humane than the India it is replacing.

While...more
Arielle Walker
I will start this short review with two equally little confessions. First, I know next to nothing about India, and second, when I picked this book up I was under the very mistaken impression that it was an urban-fantasy book. Luckily my ignorance of the setting was not so great as to have kept me under this impression past the first chapter or so, otherwise I'm sure I would have been pretty disappointed in the gritty realism (I think it's realism) of the story.

There is no supernatural here. From...more
Nagesh
Surely, You must be Kidding Me!!!

Isn't this the same Literary critic body/group that brought forward timeless masterpieces like: (to name a few)

Vernon God Little
Life of Pi
The Blind Assassin
The God of Small Things
Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha
Midnight's Children

Let me accept, I have not much clue about the process behind the shortlisting of the 5 novels for each year's contention and then the final decision making process in selecting THE ONE.

It must involve a few months of leisurely reading by the elegan...more
Fionnuala
Tell us more about the Darkness, Mr Adiga!
Most of the books about India that I've read like those of Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, the Desais or even Thrity Umrigar, feature characters for whom English is their lingua franca even if they also speak Hindi or Gujarati or any other of the many languages spoken in the subcontinent. When I started The White Tiger, I realised that it was the first Indian story where the main character hadn't a word of English at the begi...more
Jill
Oct 21, 2013 Jill rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jill by: Kinga
Shelves: kinga-forced-me

In my friend, Kinga's continued attempt to educate me on literature, this time around she forced me to read this little number set in contemporary India. It was the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008.

It's a rags-to-riches story, set on the subcontinent where the narrator is writing a letter to the Chinese Premier who is going to be visiting Bangalore. We find out early in the piece that the narrator, Balram is a murderer. We also learn he doesn't feel any real guilt, remorse or conflict. He act...more
Nancy Oakes
Another fine entry on the Booker Prize longlist for 2008, and I must say, this is the first year that I've been reading the longlist where I've really enjoyed every book I've read. With only three more of these books to go I'm simply amazed at how well the judges chose this year. What's even more amazing is that White Tiger is Adiga's first novel. He will definitely be on my list of authors to watch in the future.

At some point the main character Balram Halwai recounts a story about the Buddha i...more
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Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras (now called Chennai), and grew up in Mangalore in the south of India. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the Times of India. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008...more
More about Aravind Adiga...
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“See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of?? Losing weight and looking like the poor.” 147 likes
“I was looking for the key for years
But the door was always open”
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