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Last Man in Tower

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A tale of one man refusing to leave his home in the face of property development. Tower A is a relic from a co-operative housing society established in the 1950s. When a property developer offers to buy out the residents for eye-watering sums, the principled yet arrogant teacher is the only one to refuse the offer, determined not to surrender his sentimental attachment to his home and his right to live in it, in the name of greed. His neighbours gradually relinquish any similar qualms they might have and, in a typically blunt satirical premise take matters into their own hands, determined to seize their slice of the new Mumbai as it transforms from stinky slum to silvery skyscrapers at dizzying, almost gravity-defying speed.

422 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Aravind Adiga

32 books2,049 followers
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 debut novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008. Its release was followed by a collection of short stories in the book titled Between the Assassinations. His second novel, Last Man in the Tower, was published in 2011. His newest novel, Selection Day, was published in 2016.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 783 reviews
Profile Image for Sofia.
72 reviews68 followers
March 23, 2011
Sorry to start with a cliche, but wow. I have never been to India and I'm only somewhat familiar with Delhi. I didn't know anything about Mumbai before I read this. Sure, there's Slumdog Millionaire, but I haven't read the book and all I got from the movie was that there are very, very poor people living in slums next door to very luxurious buildings. Which also happens to be the case in Bangkok and Rio de Janeiro and other places. If you want to see, hear, smell, taste, truly experience Mumbai read Last Man in Tower.
It's not just the incredible descriptions of places and the people who inhabit them; Adiga applies the same amount of detail to a colorful cast of characters to the point that you really feel that you're living in their heads--until they do something that truly surprises you.
I'm not particularly fond of horror movies, but I enjoy those when people have to get together to solve their common problem and end up turning on each other. It's also one of my favorite things about The Lord of the Flies: desperate people can be led to do the most objectionable things, often to people they care about. This book is long and between all the detail and the slow buildup you have the time to observe the full process of men (and women) becoming a gruesome version of themselves. And yet, at no point the author allows them to become inhuman, however unspeakable their actions. The epilogue in particular, when you think you've seen the end of the story, packs a really strong punch.
I've been looking to read Adiga's previous book, The White Tiger, for a while. Now I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Profile Image for Preeti.
210 reviews160 followers
November 3, 2011
The first thing, the inevitable thing, is the comparison to The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga's first book that won the Man Booker Prize. (Side note: I have no idea about the awards most books win and don't really use those as a reason for reading - or not reading - a book.)

I thought The White Tiger packed a punch, it was in your face, fast-paced... None of these characteristics are present in this book. This book has more of a slow, trickling effect. It kind of creeps up on you and then leaves you devastated, which is how I felt a couple of minutes after I finished it.

Whereas the previous book was from the point of view of a poor person in India, this one examines a group of people who would probably fall into the middle class, or the lower middle class. It follows a similar pattern, in that it looks at how far people are willing to go to make money or, more accurately, move themselves up into a better situation. 

I kind of thought that the climax of the story towards the end happened too quickly, as well as the tying up of the rest of it, which was covered in the epilogue. Though, on the other hand, it makes sense because the crux of it all was everything leading up to it and how their mindsets changed over the course of time. In fact, the more I consider the book, the more "truthful" or "real" it seems. I can actually imagine that this could happen in India.

As I think about it more while it processes, I may have more to say. 

End note: I do have a copy of Adiga's 2nd book, Between the Assassinations, checked out of the library but I'm not sure if I can take reading more of these depressing stories about India right now. Might have to read at least one book in between before I attempt that one.
Profile Image for Usman Hickmath.
31 reviews23 followers
June 14, 2017
A ruthless property developer offers an attractive buyout to the people living in a crumbling 50 years old apartment building located in a prime land in Mumbai where he plans to build a high rise to make a killing. All the families in the building accept the offer except Yogesh Murthi, a retired teacher known as Masterji, who wants to live there with the memories of his deceased wife. The story goes on to tell what happened to Masterji and the building.

In this well written story Adiga explores the concerns surrounding the real estate trade in a big, bustling city and how vulnerable are the middle class people to the systems in such cities.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,564 followers
June 17, 2020
"A man who does not want: who has no secret spaces in his heart into which a little more cash can be stuffed, what kind of man is that?"

The very protagonist of this, Adiga's second novel. Prose wise, we are in the same articulate hands, good ones that transport and convey empathy for all his characters. This modern-India version of Old Goirot, replete with the apartments and the drama, most of which occurs within the family. But wait! Modern times ask for desperate drastic measures. And then the tale is very universal in fact: money grubbing tenants?! NO!

A smaller degree of surprise and plot than "The White Tiger"... nevertheless notice the same identical rating. Will be reading his other stuff, why would I not?! He is a true prose master...
Profile Image for John.
29 reviews6 followers
April 9, 2012
I'm a little surprised by many of the tepid reviews here. I was truly impressed with Aravind Adiga's ability to write a literate, plot-driven tragicomedy that manages to ask some big questions. The novel is funny, literate, bitter, and profound, and it deserves our attention and respect.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Occupants of a cooperative apartment building are offered a small fortune by a developer so he can tear their building down and build a new luxury apartment tower. However, they must all agree to take the money and move out, and they don't all agree. As time wears on toward the developer's deadline, neighbors are pitted against neighbors; families are torn apart; and long-buried dreams come to life.

I find the novel's characters to be multi-dimensional, and I think the author gives us a chance to understand the impurity of everyone's motives. In this city, virtually everything is for sale. "In the continuous market that runs right through southern Mumbai, under banyan trees, on pavements, beneath the arcades of the Gothic buildings, in which food, pirated books, perfumes, wristwatches, meditations beads, and software are sold, one question is repeated, to tourists and locals, in Hindi or in English: What do you want?"

A lesser author would have stopped there, but Adiga forces us to confront our own wants, and our attitudes toward success and failure, more directly. Is it wrong to want more? What if "getting" comes at the expense of the elderly, the sick, the poor, the past? What if saying "no" merely reflects a stubborn fear of change? What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Can India become a modern country without losing its own soul? These are marvelous questions to be wrung out of a simple tale about a real estate buyout.
Profile Image for Laura.
475 reviews52 followers
December 29, 2015
This is the worst book I read in 2015! I really like to give books a go before I will trash them or stop reading them but and I gave this book all the chances but each time I kept hating it. It's very rare that I'll pick up a book and not understand the storyline but this book consistently had me scratching my head and wondering what the heck I'd just read.

There are too many characters in this book and none of them are easy to keep a track on as the author likes to chop and change so randomly I kept getting lost over and over again.

Not even 100 pages in and I'm giving this book the flick..It's a truly painful read for me each and everytime..So disappointed! The authors other books were great..Yes, they took a bit to get into and at times I even struggled with them but not in the same way as this pile of trash.

Profile Image for Pia.
Author 2 books79 followers
October 10, 2011
I liked The White Tiger, I loved Between the Assassinations, but I adored Last Man in Tower. I think part of the reason this book was so poignant to me was the clear connection between the characters in this book and real life. My grandmother's society in Bandra East is about to be dismantled and pretty much everything that is happening in this story may very well be happening in real life. In the spirit of RK Narayan and Rohinton Mistry, Aravind Adiga's Vishram Society is so true-to-life; the characters are real, their motivations are real. At times, they seemed a teensy bit contrived, but I think the stereotypes helped to tell the story of what inspires people in a country where there is so little: money. A lot of it. I want to recommend this book to my grandmother, because it may well be how she is feeling from day to day as she awaits the date that the builders will tell her to pack her things and find another place to stay while they dismantle her home for the past 60-odd years and find new accommodations. For the first time since she has been going through this ordeal, I understand the fears and pain she must be going through in the lead-up to this day. I only hope her story is happier than this one.
Profile Image for Justin.
146 reviews1 follower
March 30, 2012
What a massive disappointment. I was a huge fan of The White Tiger, but other than being set in India this book has nothing in common with its predecessor. There is no humor, no great sense of place, the characters never get stuck in the reader's imagination, and the preachy, didactic nature of the novel just grates on the nerves after awhile. The painful over-exposition throughout the dialogue was particularly surprising for a writer of Adiga's talent. He doesn't trust his readers to figure anything out, everything is thoroughly explained to them as if they were students in Masterji's science top-up class. He also has a maddening tendency to have people use each other's names when talking to one another, which hardly ever happens in real life. The book fails to build up any real sense of tension and all the characters do exactly what is expected of them...you can see the string of the author hovering over each one.

I'm not sure if he was under pressure to deliver this book to his publisher ahead of an unreasonable deadline, if he simply couldn't handle the transition from first person (which he wrote so well in for The White Tiger) to third (and may partly explain how peculiarly lifeless this novel felt), or if perhaps he just cracked under the weight of expectation. There is not much to recommend in this novel, even for fans of his previous work.
Profile Image for P..
449 reviews111 followers
August 31, 2018
Spoiler Alert!

Worth a read. The story is no suspense and all it takes for you to guess it is just to take a look at the contents page!
It is brilliantly written in parts but it has many flaws.

1. It is not as good as the white tiger
2. It is damn depressing at times
3. The book unnecessarily flows for more than 400 pages when there are no surprising events. The writing ain't good enough to arrest your attention either!
4. Logical flaws. When masterji actually refuses only because of the Pintos, when they have said yes why does he unnecessarily resist even after that?
5. Artificial conversations. Throughout. Nobody in real life would call their spouse with salutations. Mrs. Pinto keeps calling her husband as Mr.Pinto throughout the book.
6. Too many ideological similarities to White Tiger. Ex: The Admiration for China.

Come on Adiga! India surely has its flaws but it isn't fair to focus solely on the darker parts when you enjoy a rare global following that other Indian authors don't! Still portraying India as some 3rd world dirt rag nation is unfair.
Profile Image for Archit.
824 reviews3,224 followers
May 1, 2018
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

- George Orwell

After reading the author's Booker Prize winner "The White Tiger", I had a lot of expectations from this one which, unfortunately, it failed to stand up to.
Profile Image for Arsh.
40 reviews12 followers
January 19, 2022
Adiga wrote a fine novel that depicts human depravity, greed, hope and kindness at its max. It's a simple read about the complicated lives of middle class families, trying to make ends meet in a city like Mumbai.

The story is fair and simple. A society in a section of Mumbai becomes prime to the eyes of a real estate wealthy builder Dharmen Shah, who decides to demolish the society and build his luxurious housing project, he offers the residents of the society an offer they cannot reject. All the members of the society filled with the temptation of finally having a rich life, agree to the deal. But there is one man, Yogesh Murthy, who refuses to part with his home.

This book leaves a lasting impression on how greed could make the beliefs and values of some people fickle in real life . However it drags on a little bit towards the end. A one-time must read for its portrayal of the complexities of our daily lives and the light and dark sides of our relationships with our neighbours. Read it for the indomitable spirit of a man not ready to give up.
Profile Image for Vijay.
1 review
October 31, 2011
As somebody who is living in India, I have experienced the massive real estate growth that has taken place in India in the last few years. Buying a home was a middle class aspiration for a long time and one which people strove for in their life.

Slowly but surely, this dream is getting out of reach for a majority of Indian people. Property prices have sky-rocketed in cities leaving ordinary middle class aspirants reeling. Just a cursory look at how the business is conducted in India shows how unorganized it is. Corporates, individuals and local politicians have made obscene profits with little thought for ethics and a fair way of conducting business. I have lived all the 30 years of my live in Chennai and can slowly feel it turning into a concrete jungle with no thought given to the happiness quotient of an average citizen. A drive down the IT expressway which was supposed to be a 3-lane highway shows you how much the government/private sector care for the safety and well being of the road user. Wonder what the happiness index of people living in Indian city would be compared to global standards.

I immensely enjoyed reading this book as it speaks with an alternate view to all the praise and chest thumping of the Indian development. Wonder how many can identify themselves with Masterji and his struggles. Aravind has also neatly shown the ruthless nature of the property developer, Mr. Shah. Finally, the sad turn of events that leads the colony dwellers to do what they do, though dramatic, symbolises the mindset that Indians are being pushed into. Thumps up!
Profile Image for Corey.
535 reviews27 followers
March 16, 2014
I really enjoy Aravind Adiga’s writing. He knows how to convey subtle yet poignant humor, and large messages through deceptively simple stories – particularly relating to greed and corruption.

This book lost me a little bit because there were so many characters. I kept getting Mrs. Rego and Mrs. Puri confused, ditto for Mr. Ajwani and Mr. Kudwa, and the various children were all a bit of a mish-mash. The central conflict of the novel struck me as a bit unnecessary. Masterji, an elderly resident of Vishram Society, obstinately refused to accept a developer’s offer to buy his apartment despite pressure from all of the other residents who were eager to sell their property. This situation escalated quite intensely and seemed to skip some of the more logical phases of conflict resolution such as external mediation, honest discussion and open debate among the residents. Instead, everyone involved seemed to approach the issue in a self-centered and excessively emotional manner. As Oprah would say, the situation needed a “hero”, but pretty much everyone acted like a baby. I didn’t understand why someone didn’t sit down with Masterji and explain in detail all of the plans which he was obstructing and the selfishness of his actions. Even if he was experiencing diabetes-induced dementia, surely he would have come around eventually? I thought the “solution” to the conflict was far-fetched… I guess I just have more faith in humanity than that.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
January 16, 2012

“Last Man in Tower” may not be a book you’ll enjoy reading but will probably be a book you’ll feel rewarded for finishing. As we’ve learned to expect from Adiga the book is incredibly well written and the characters have depth. It’s not a pretty world they inhabit though. Money appears to be the main theme of this book but in my opinion it’s only a vehicle for more personally important themes such as human dignity, respect, and betrayal. “Tower” is rife with metaphor. One that stands out is how people value animals; they love them, feel sorry when they die or are in pain, they become vegetarians so as not to harm them, and they see them as a way to reverence God. This is sharply contrasted with how some people use and exploit others for financial gain and to feel superior. The central character is Masterji who is a retired teacher whose wife has recently died. It’s Masterji’ss journey that fascinates both because he’s alternately revered and dismissed both by himself and by others. Adiga portrays this character in particular so well that It’s impossible not to worry about his fate. The title, “Last Man in Tower”, is a great representation of the syncopated feel of Adiga’s prose and the action in this book.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews946 followers
February 11, 2014
Adiga's constellation of Vishram Society inhabitants are well furnished with religious backgrounds, family histories, personalities and motives, but efforts to foresee the twists in the tale are foiled by human unpredictability. Heroes and villains reveal unexpected facets throughout; the murderer finds a conscience; the friend tears up the token and changes sides; the loving mother goes absolutely all the way for her disabled son...

On reflection, I've come back to thinking how it's structures that matter; what structures enable fellow-feeling, what kinds of structure erode it? How does imperialist capitalism atomise people and colonise their will?

Behind these overlapping wires she saw banyan trees; all of which were hemmed in by the fencing; except for one greying ancient, whose aerial roots, squirming through barbed wire and broken glass, dripped down the wall like primordial ooze until their bright growing tips, nearly touching the pavement, brushed against a homeless family cooking rice in the shade; and with each root-tip that had beaten the barbed wire the old banyan said: nothing can stop a living thing that wants to be free.
Profile Image for Nagesh.
53 reviews6 followers
September 14, 2011
Somehow I feel something about his nation of birth has rubbed him (Arvind Adiga) very wrongly

I see only a pessimistic view of most things and the same views get translated into words in his stories

I pretty much did not like "White Tiger" and really honestly wondered how it deserved the Booker Prize, but this one is also nothing great to write about

The plot looked interesting from the back-page hence I went on to read it. The start of the story is also intersting, the description of the mohalla, the flats, the residents all seem to promise you a good meaty story coming up but somehow the pessimism of the Author seems to seep into every character that comes up in the book and there is not one character (Including Masterji at times) who seems to be an averagely decent individual with no sinister or selfish thoughts in mind. Is the world that pathetic?

Also the end is really hollow because inspite of the deadly acts none of the characters even seem fo display remotely any sense of conscience or repentence at their actions ...

Infact some of them do not even figure in the story after what is the most dramatic and violent climax before the flats are sold to the Builder ...

Profile Image for Katie.
1,121 reviews53 followers
January 20, 2012
I loved "White Tiger" by this author and decided I had to read this newer book. I did not like it as much, however, it did contain a lot of the same things I liked about this author's writing style from White Tiger.

I was not totally drawn into this book's plot as much as I was hoping. I thought it was a bit too long and just not quite gripping enough. I found the ending to not be completely convincing, in terms of these peoples' moral failings. So that was an issue--I definitely did not find it to be a page-turner.

However, Adiga is such a unique writer that I could overlook a lot of my little disappointments in the book. He is unique in his darkly humorous, cynical, and very Indian voice. I have never encountered a writer quite like him. First of all, you really feel like you are in Bombay/Mumbai. He describes the place and its people so well, you really feel like you are there. And for someone who is kind of enamored of India, like me, this was a real treat. I found the descriptions of places, people, food, culture, etc., so interesting throughout the book. And, I find Adiga's cynical humor very appealing. Who else writes about India quite like him? I have a feeling I'll also be seeking out his future novels.
Profile Image for Felice.
250 reviews82 followers
October 6, 2011
A couple years ago author AravindAdiga had a big critical and commercial hit with the Man Booker winning The White Tiger. It was a funny, gritty, grisly, wonderful, contemporary Horatio Alger/ Kind Hearts and Coronets story set in India. Adiga’s new novel, Last Man In Tower, can be described with all the same adjectives (and then some) except this time he’s not creating his version of a dark rags to riches story but the classic Kaufman and Hart play, You Can’t Take It With You.

The tower itself is Tower A in an apartment complex that is handily situated near both the slums and the airport in Mumbai. Tower A isn’t the bright pink it used to be, has any number of maintenance issues but it does boast the Vishram Society. The Society is made up of the residents of the tower. They are a close knit, middle class proud, virtuous group. When the Tower first opened it was for Catholics only. Diversity was gradual, in the 1960’s Hindus were admitted followed by Muslims in the 1980’s. They may gossip about each other but they are devoted to one another and if not over the moon happy they are at least trying.

Enter the villain. Dharmen Shah, ruthless real estate developer. Shah wants to demolish the apartment complex in order to make way for luxury redevelopments. He and his jack of all mayhem Shanmugham have already emptied Tower B. That one was easy-pickings. It was filled with young executives eager to rise in the world. Tower A however is proving more difficult. Its residents are long term and consider the tower their home.

So far so very You Can’t Take It With You. In the play the grasping industrialist needs to buy the homestead of the poor but honest family (Along with every house on the block.) in order to build a factory and make even more money on the backs of the oppressed. There the moral center of the story, the man who can stand up to Big Business is the family patriarch Grandpa, Lionel Barrymore in the movie. In Last Man in Tower the shining guidepost, the man who wants to save them all is Masterji. He becomes the leader of the opposition. The residents form an unofficial parliament to try and stop the evil developer played in the movie by the unsung Edward Arnold and in the book by Dharmen Shah.

Now the play/movie and the novel diverge. The play celebrates the mythical homespun virtues of the populace, love and individuality. Last Man In Tower is more complex. The residents are close but not blood and their problems are not the adorable problems of a 1930’s fantasy. They are unified in saving their homes but for how long can they hold out against the offers of money, which they could all use and when money doesn’t work, the threats of violence?

Adiga pulls out his amazing talents and provides us with all the fascinating particulars of the residents and the developer. Their motives, weakness and eccentricities are illustrated with deceptive simplicity. Adiga leads us down the path we expect to follow since we know that the underdog is the good guy and the rich guy is the villain. Then something happens and the reader is challenged. Is it so bad to want more? To not feel compelled to look out for everyone? Does the past need to be preserved? Is progress the same as greed? Does righteousness go hand and hand with narcissism?

Last Man In Tower is an even stronger novel than White Tiger. Aravind Adiga has taken a well worn idea and made it his own. He takes a hard view of personal and public corruption in Last Man In Tower. However instead of relentlessly, humorlessly grinding his axe on every page he fills the narrative with a Dickensian passion for social evils wrapped around a wide ranging plot that balances absurdity and disgusted honesty with varied and colorful characters. The bonuses for readers are the sudden discoveries of poignancy and fraudulence among Adiga’s shifting relationships and politics.
Profile Image for Wolf.
104 reviews5 followers
June 25, 2011
There is a point when Adiga’s latest suddenly comes to life. The man last holding out in the tower block, not prepared to sell to a developer, seems to have run out of ways to fight the builder whilst others in the block are desperate that they might have miss the deadline for accepting the builder’s deadline and prepare to try and force the old man’s hand. The story gains dynamism, strength and tension. Sadly, by this point I was about three-quarters of the way through the book.

It isn’t easy to pin point exactly why the rest of the book doesn’t sparkle. It certainly contains some beautiful writing. Adiga has a gift, reminiscent of Graham Greene, to pick striking conceits and metaphors: young rich Indians compared with plump glossy chicken breasts on a rotisserie; a statuette of Ganesha at a lawyer’s office is ‘like a soft white rat living on the staircase’.

It lacks the vibrancy of ‘The White Tiger’, Adiga’s Booker winning first novel, however. There is no sharp and witty narrator here, but there is also rather less of the narrative drive of the first book. Part of the problem might be in its rather too diffuse focus on a number of characters. Whilst the issue is nothing like as severe as a glance at the rather intimidating list of all the residents of the tower block at the beginning might lead one to fear, there are seven or eight important view point characters.

In some ways it is closer to the short stories of ‘Between the Assassinations’ as a result – where Adiga showed a gift for realising characters with deft strokes. There are many similarities between some of the characters shown there and the disappointed middle class inhabitants of the tower block. Thematically, there are strong similarities too: the individual’s fight against corruption, principle against the combination of society and individual self interest. Here, for the central character at least, there are also Greene-like questions of divided loyalty.

But whilst in ‘Between the Assassinations’ the stories of each individual command attention here the split focus seems to mean that many characters never properly develop. Even the main character, Masterji, felt flat, never fully developing a life of his own, for me at least, beyond the ticks and past incidents worked out in advance by the author. Others are weaker. The important character of Mrs Rego, who should be sympathetic and who plays an increasingly important role in how events unfold, remains uninteresting, one note and not wholly convincing.

This issue is highlighted because there is a character who has all the life and vibrancy lacking elsewhere. Mr Shah, the builder and developer and the white tiger of this book, is compelling. A self-made man, Mephistophelian in his dealings and determined to build his great project (‘Gothic style, Rajput porch, Art Deco fountain. My life story in one building.’) as a statement about himself but also as a gift to the future of the city that allowed him to drag himself up from his humble beginnings. In his struggles with his delinquent son, loved and also capable of being used as a prop in his business deals, his young mistress and ‘left hand man’ he leaps from the page.

Intellectually, one suspects, Adiga’s sympathy lies with the divided characters in the tower but his interest lies with the figure behind it all, pulling the strings.

In the end, then, Adiga’s latest novel disappoints to some extent. He has not recaptured the formula that made ‘White Tiger’ so successful. On the other hand, judged on its own terms, there book still has enough to make it a worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Adira.
431 reviews242 followers
March 26, 2017
I gave this book four stars not because I was head over heels in love with it, but because it lead me to have profound thoughts about the condition of humanity. While this book was required reading for me in generaladuate school, there were many times when I wanted to throw it clear across the room out of frustration and anger at the characters' actions.

For a full review, visit my blog, ...On The Shelf.
Profile Image for Kamil.
213 reviews1,130 followers
October 9, 2022
Adiga has an impressive ability to picture the complexity and the degeneration of modern society without falling into too much didacticism.
Yogesh Murthi, the last man in tower A of Vishram Society is the titular character (although there are MANY other characters). He is a retired teacher, who becomes the only inhabitant of Vishram co-operative housing refusing to accept a generous buyout offer from a construction company planning to build another example of Mumbai's glass and steal luxury housing for India's growing middle and upper class. He is a faulty character, his ideals, and stubbornness growing in strength as the novel progresses are fueled by his past failures. Masterji, as others call him, is not necessarily an easily liked fellow; he is strict, fair but harsh with his students, an example of a teacher exaggerating his influence in a society where money is the only king.
In Adiga's second novel, in my opinion the best one he has written so far, the question that I went through repeatedly, maybe surprisingly, is if one man, through his actions, has the right to decide about the future of his, truly despicable but still, neighbors indirectly. I don't think he has, but that is another thing that makes this novel even more interesting.
Profile Image for Tony.
1,393 reviews72 followers
September 28, 2011
Adiga's acerbic and darkly funny debut novel, The White Tiger, won the 2008 Booker Prize, so expectations are high for this one. I quite liked the earlier book for its unabashed class warfare plotline and compelling moral ambiguity. This one deals with similar themes: invoking the aspirations of rich, poor, and middle class in a story revolving around a developer's attempt to buy out the residents of an old building in Mumbai so he can tear it down and build a luxury condo. The catch is that according to the terms of the buyout, the residents must unanimously accept the offer or it will be withdrawn. Naturally, the plot revolves around whether or not anyone will hold out, and what will happen when one inevitably refuses to sell.

Unfortunately, this never creates as much narrative tension as it should. Although the building holds a wide array of occupants, they mostly fail to come alive as real people. The cast is so large and the author flits among them without much regard for pace or style, and as a result the whole book drags. At the heart of it all is the last holdout, a widower and retired schoolteacher who gradually finds himself pitted against his family, his friends, and his city. Thankfully, Adiga has retained his ability to write in shades of gray and the schoolteacher, while occupying a kind of knee-jerk moral high ground, is shown to be far from faultless in his own right. Similarly, one finds strands of sympathy for the developer, who could have been a caricature capitalist, and whose project is less about making money than it is about his need to leave some kind of tangible mark on the world.

It's the kind of story that tempts one to blurt "a pox on both their houses" and walk away, but of course someone has to win out in the end, and given the author's sensibilities, the result should hardly come as a surprise. Make no mistake, the message from The White Tiger carries over to this book: in modern India, cash is an acid and eat away at everything it touches, especially society. Despite its narrative shortcomings, the book does remain rich in texture and detail concerning modern India, and as such, should be given a chance by anyone interested in the country in general and Mumbai in particular (it would be well paired with books like Maximum City or Sacred Games). It's also worth reading by those interested in issues of urban development, especially in the less-developed world.

It just ocurs to me that Adiga might be trying something cleverish in the following respect: the developer is actually purchasing two neighboring buildings, one is Tower A and the one the story revolves around is Tower B. And when one starts thinking about two matched "towers" about to be destroyed in the name of progress, it's hard (as an American reader, at least), not to start thinking about 9/11. I can't quite connect the dots in a way that makes sense of it all, but I'll throw it out there as something for others to chew on.
Profile Image for Candace.
549 reviews52 followers
June 25, 2011
You may be wondering why I have all these five star books. No, I am not easily pleased, but life being what it is, who has time to review mediocre stuff? Share the good! Share the worthwhile! And this novel is definitely worthwhile.

I liked "Last Man in Tower" better than "The White Tiger"--A book I enjoyed a lot. "Last Man" is just as gritty and compelling, and carries that same sort of horror factor that "White Tiger" did. Not horror in terms of zombies, but horror in seeing what people can become.

The people in Vishram Society have lived together in their co-op building for more than 30 years, sharing their
lives, helping each other, working through petty disagreements. When a developer offers them a munificent buyout that all residents must agree to, everything falls apart.

Vishram Society is made up of very regular middle class people who may prove willing, if not eager, to throw each other under the proverbial bus if need be. Every resident of the tower is achingly human, infuriating and touching at the same time.

This is not an easy read. The themes are hard, the characters challenging, and Mumbai is a monster. But you will not want to leave Vishram Society until the buyout deadline is past. There is a Dickensian element to this book as it touches on a variety of lives from different castes, religions, and throws them into the roiling maw of a great city. There is a universality to this novel that will make it live long in memory and in literature.

by Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,368 reviews544 followers
May 25, 2015
Here's Russell Peters on being Indian:

All my life I've been identifying myself as an Indian man. I'm always like, I'm Indian. What are you? I'm Indian. Where you from? I'm Indian. What do you mean, where am I from? I'm Indian. And then I realised something. I was born and raised in Canada. There's nothing Indian about me! The only thing Indian about me are my parents and my skin tone. That's it! Culturally, I'm not Indian at all. And the only reason I know this is because last year I went to India to do some shows. And I thought I was Indian. And when we were flying over to India, I got this overwhelming Indian feeling. Inside of me I was like, I'm the most Indian man ever! I just thought I was so Indian, you know? We arrived in Bombay, I was like yelling at the flight attendant "Open the doors to this plane! Let me at my Indian people! Let me show those Indians what it's like to be Indian!" She opened up the doors to that plane, I turned Canadian so fast! I was like: "I am so... Did I step in shit just now?" When you arrive in India, the minute they open the doors to that plane, you get an overwhelming blast of shit smell right up your nose! It's almost like they hire someone to shit in front of every plane that lands! Quick, quick, here comes one. Shit, shit and go! Shit and go! Go! go! go! And if you're an Indian person out there, you're thinking to yourself, "That's not true, that's not true". Then screw you, you probably had a cold or landed in the wrong country! Because racially I'm an Indian man. Culturally, there are things that happen culturally, if you are not raised in that part of the world, you will find it unacceptable.

We had a yard sale once and the majority of people who came to check out our wares were Indian women, beautiful in their saris and gold bangles. They would pick up everything, inspecting and tutting and shaking their heads at the unfortunate quality, and then come and offer me half or less of the asking price, every one of them trying to look pathetic and saying, "Please understand, you understand." It was really getting on my nerves, because it felt so manipulative, and the worst was when a woman picked up a rather nice doll that was marked at 25 cents and she came and tried to put a dime in my hand, saying, "Please understand". I didn't understand and I didn't take her dime and we haven't had a yard sale since.

I have long been rather fascinated by Indian culture and enjoy picking up books set there. From novels like A Fine Balance, A Suitable Boy, The God Of Small Things, even Secret Daughter, Life Of Pi, The White Tiger and everything by Salman Rushdie, I've learned about the huge disparity between the very rich and the very poor, and it has been equally fascinating to see the recent rise of the middle class that's occurring in India. With this sketchy knowledge base, I can appreciate just what the Confidence Group's buyout offer meant to the residents of Vishram Society in Last Man In Tower. Everyone in the tower seemed to have enough to eat and they had the funds to send their children to good schools and most have servants and none of them needed to share their flats with multigenerational extended family members like in some of the other books I've read, but when they saw what they could potentially sell their homes for, the shot at a true middle class life style (scooters and eating at the mall and an apartment with a steady water supply) became more important to them than the friendships they had forged with their neighbours over many many years. In reaction to the holdouts, it all turns Lord Of The Flies. Aravind Adiga does an excellent job of altering the people ever so slightly over time so that you can understand how friends changed into enemies. I especially liked: .

Adiga wrote fully fleshed out characters and brought Mumbai to life; you could pretty much smell the shit. And he was masterful at demonstrating how impossible it must be to take a moral stand when everyone in authority, from the police to the courts to the government, are immoral and out to line their own pockets. And there were some lovely bits of writing that made me think:

Nothing can stop a living thing that wants to be free.

A man's past keeps growing, even when his future has come to a full stop.

When small people like us compromise, it is the same as when big people refuse to compromise. The world becomes a better place.

But despite the excellent writing and plot and pacing, there was something halting and stilted about Last Man In Tower that made it a slow read for me. This might be because the author is Indian and writing in a cadence that's foreign to me, like trying to translate the live tech support from "Kevin" when your computer is crashing, yet Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth are also Indian and I have no issue with them. Perhaps, like Russell Peters, I think I understand India and Indians until confronted with the real thing. Perhaps, when the lovely Indian ladies at my garage sale urged, "Please understand, you understand", I should have replied, "I want to,but maybe I don't".
79 reviews7 followers
May 20, 2012
By Aravind Adiga. Grade: B
Ask any Bombaywallah about Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society and you will be told that it is unimpeachably pucca. Despite its location close to the airport and bordered by slums, it has been pucca for some fifty years. But then Bombay has changed in half a century – not least its name – and the world in which Tower A was first built is giving way to a new city, a Mumbai of new development and new money; of wealthy Indians returning with fortunes made abroad.

When real estate developer Dharmen Shah offers to buy out the residents of Vishram Society, planning to use the site to build a luxury apartment complex, his offer is more than generous. Yet not everyone wants to leave; many of them no longer young. But none can benefit from the offer unless all agree to sell. As tensions rise, one by one those who oppose the offer give in to the pressure of the majority, until only one man stands in the way of Shah’s luxury high-rise: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher, once the most respected man in the building.
Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbours – friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co-conspirators – may stop at nothing to score their payday.
A suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation; a rich tapestry peopled by unforgettable characters, not least of which is Bombay itself, Last Man in Tower opens up the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of a great city – ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none.
The story is set in the suburbs of Mumbai. An ambitious builder Dharmen Shah plans a huge construction project and pitches an offer to the residents of Vishram Society. Tower A, the older wing of Vishram Society, has been donning the horizon of Vakola since the very inception of this suburb. Almost all the residents of Tower A accept this magnanimous offer and decide to move out of the building which offered only dust and remains of the past instead of basic amenities like electricity, water etc. The only people resisting this offer are Masterji and his friends. Masterji, whose family’s memories were enmeshed in every corner of this house; a house he had made into home, refused to leave it for this very reason. Without a unanimous decision, the offer could not be carried out and everybody would stand to lose. What do the other residents of Tower A do – they submit to the wishes and whims of their old, fragile neighbour or take matters into their own hands – is what the story tells.
To begin with, the novel is pretty classy in its form and structure. The way it begins – with a list of residents of Tower A – adds to the flavour of the plot. The author begins the plot with a brief overview of the suburban area of Mumbai in which the plot is set from every standpoint – demographic, geographical, religious and political – all of which goes a long way in contributing to the context of the plot. He then goes on to describe how the daily proceedings of a typical society fare in metropolitan cities. This is just a glimpse of the kind of build-up which the plot has to back it up.
The writing style is really par excellence. It is a syntactical treat. The way the words have been chosen, the phrases and sentences have been formed is plain lavish. The story literally flows from one page to the next. The chapters have been adequately spaced, the timeline proceeds dreamily and most importantly, the characters have been sketched to perfection. They have been brought to life with such ease that it is very difficult not to connect with them. The prose is like the icing on the cake.
“… A hush of covert business had fallen over a garrulous Society. Amidst the silent germination of schemes and ambitions all around him, Masterji sat like a cyst…”
The analogy of the budding natural growth to that of change in the Society and Masterji being the inactive, unchanging cyst is really a treat in itself.
The only thing which it lacks in is the plot. The plot in itself is not that good. It is a very average plot of greed, ambition and falsehood mixed with complex emotions. It is the writing which salvages the show. Had it not been for the way this novel has been written, it could have been a very mediocre attempt.
What Last Man in Tower does is that it at times gives such great insights into human nature – when they are desperate, pushed to the edge and could lose everything without being able to control anything. It shows us the dark side of common people who are on the verge of losing that one thing whose pursuit is both dangerous and precious – a dream. Whether it serves any other purpose or not, Last Man in Tower does a two-fold bang-up job. One, it demonstrates how richness of the prose can elevate a mediocre plot and two, showcases the very fine line between right and wrong, the line we know as conscience.

Originally reviewed at :http://the-vault.co.cc
Profile Image for Contemporary_literary_threads.
194 reviews14 followers
January 18, 2021
'Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga' is a contemporary novel set in 2008 Bombay or Mumbai's Vakola. A witty commentary on Mumbai or Bombay's growing urbanisation.
People at Vishram Society are living from more than a decade. A society which lacks modernisation. With a bad drainage system, chipped walls, and neighbours who always have ears in each others' home, the book draws our attention to Maharashtra's growing real estate business which has a humungous money flow but in a right way? That's the real question.
Yogesh Murthy A.K.A Masterji of B wing of Vishram Society when approached by Mr Shah, a builder, refuses to accept his offer and leave his apartment, sets the major premise of this story. A fight for his rights and feelings attached to his apartment.
At the first whole of the B wing residents are in support of Masterji. But slowly Mr Shah's tactics of offering 'a little extra' attracts them.
As Yogesh Murthy keeps his tussle on with Mr Shah and the rest of the resident of Vishram Society, we explore flippancy in human nature.
How easily, especially for a monetary benefit, we decide to snap ties with our closed ones. In fact, Masterji's son, Gaurav, puts him in a trap and tries to make him sign the Builder's agreement.
The darker side behind Bombay's soaring high buildings is explored wisely by Adiga. Characters like Mrs Puri, who has a sweet tongue but vicious intentions can be easily found in one of our residential areas as well.
I liked how every character, dead or alive, has been given some importance. The straight and expected ending of the book makes us realise how often this practice must have been performed by builders or real estate agents in all these years. A foot costing lakhs of rupees makes no sense, but for builders, it's a gold mine that they can easily dig by offering more than desired by the likely people of Vishram Society.
It was my second Adiga novel after 'The White Tiger', and he didn't disappoint me by narrating human complexities, their nature and ember emotions.
Read it for good engaging prose and how the human mind can turn destructive in nature.
Profile Image for Beth (bibliobeth).
1,925 reviews53 followers
December 29, 2013
This is the second book of Aravind Adiga’s that I have read, after thoroughly enjoying his Man Booker prize winning novel The White Tiger which I also recommend. In this novel we meet a host of colourful characters who are living happily in a tower block in Mumbai despite the occasional shabbiness and state of repair of their apartments. Unfortunately, change is coming in the shape of a ruthless property developer called Dharmen Shah who offers a life-changing amount of money to the residents of Tower A so that he may demolish and re-develop it as part of the “new” India. There is one catch however, all the residents must agree to be bought out, for the plan to go through, and there is one tenant – Masterji, who refuses to be moved. Masterji, an old teacher who often lectures some of the children in the towers, is quite happy in his home and quite stubbornly refuses to be goaded. His apartment is filled with memories of his late wife and daughter, and quite simply he is reluctant to leave them behind.

There is a lot of humour in this novel, especially if you like your humour quite dark…as there is bucket loads of darkness in this novel. The tenants of Tower A become almost infatuated with greed for the money on offer, and the author explores an interesting concept of exactly how far people will go to get rich. The whole smell and feel of Mumbai is also on show and the contrast between the skyscrapers for the rich and the poverty in the slums is laid out, with no holds barred for the reader to immerse themselves in. I loved the array of characters, and thought they were conceived perfectly, especially Masterji who I found myself rooting for throughout the novel. I think anyone who enjoyed The White Tiger will love this novel, and I cannot wait to read his next. One of my auto-buy authors? Most definitely!

Please see my full review at http://www.bibliobeth.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Vidya Tiru.
538 reviews144 followers
March 23, 2012
My Take: This was a book that left me devastated in the end. It was kind of reading an adult version of Lord of the Flies in a different setting.
The book is set in Vakola, Mumbai and focuses on the residents of Vishram Society. The apartment complexes that make up the Society are eyed by Shah, a real estate developer who plans to build his dream there. His efforts to clear the buildings in order to realize his dream – by making generous (in the real estate world) financial offers to the residents and other persuasions – and the reactions of the residents and their lives to this make up the story. One man’s resistance to this offer is the center of this story though – Masterji’s. It is very interesting to watch how society dynamics change, how relationships are impacted (friends, family, neighbors) and how individuals change when faced with choices like in the book. What do you do when your dreams are right in front of you – waiting for you to reach out and grab them – after you make a, maybe, moral compromise? Will you? The story reveals this moral compass of individuals very well.
All the characters in the book are well etched out – even the not-so-major characters like Shah’s son or the priest who helps perform religious rituals for Masterji. Adiga’s narration of the story is fascinating, riveting and keeps you hooked. The descriptions of places too is fascinating and detailed and takes you right there to Mumbai as you read the book – the real Mumbai with real people. It took me a while to get into it though, but once I was hooked – somewhere halfway through - I kept going till the end.
In Summary:
Rating: B+ (I loved the White Tiger a teeny bit more so a B+ here)
Profile Image for Ajay.
77 reviews
January 4, 2012
I read this book complusively. I have witnessed first hand the real estate growth in India. I have seen the naked greed and aspirations of the middle class (of which I am a part too). I have seen the extreme religiosity and the erosion of moral values (morality and religion are not to be confused here). Adiga takes all this and packages it in a compelling tale of desire, greed and ambition. I could almost see the characters living and breathing. It was a visual read. This is one book that is screaming for a screen adaptation, but that does not take away the intrinsic merit of this book. Last Man in Tower is a compelling, haunting and thought provoking read. Would I rate is as high literature or pop fiction? Adiga after having won the Booker, seems to rank among the former. But for me Adiga is for modern urban India, the same way R K Narayan was for rural India. And he stems from the same school of writing as Narayan - crisp, brief, precise and extremely accessible.
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