Lynda's Reviews > The White Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
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bookshelves: author-asia, general-contemporary, z-read-2014, 4-stars, 1001-books

"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 of Bollywood stars and technology entrepreneurs.

author white tiger
--The author

The entire novel is narrated through seven letters by Balram Halwai, an exceedingly charming, egotistical admitted murderer, to the Premier of China, who will soon be visiting India.

Balram is an Indian man from an impoverished background, born into the 'darkness' of rural India. His family is from the Halwai caste, a caste that indicates sweet-makers. His village is dominated and oppressed by four landlords. Balram gets a break when he goes to work for one of the landlords, and then ends up moving to Delhi via a job as driver to Mr Ashok, the landlord's son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation; crime, corruption, greed, adultery, prostitution and alcohol abuse.

I enjoyed this book. Caught up in Balram's world, and his wonderful turn of phrases, the pages turned themselves, brimming with idiosyncrasy, sarcasm, cunning, and often hilarious.
"Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don't have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewerage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them. Especially in the field of technology."
There was also a great deal of sadness in the book, especially the treatment of the underclass who built the city, and are trapped there, hidden from plain view, employed in poor conditions and at low grade jobs, and in some cases held in slavery conditions. Balram refers to this as the "rooster coop".
"Hundreds of pale hens and brightly coloured roosters, stuffed tightly into wire-mesh cages, packed as tightly as worms in a belly, pecking each other and shitting on each other, jostling just for breathing space; the whole cage giving off a horrible stench – the stench of terrified, feathered flesh."
The White Tiger brilliantly portrays the emotions, sorrows, and aspirations of the poor. For Adiga, his achievement is capturing a stirring, a glimmer of a refusal by the poor to accept the fate ordained for them by their masters.

A splendid, perceptive book. A narrative genius.
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Reading Progress

June 14, 2013 – Shelved
June 14, 2013 – Shelved as: waiting-library
June 14, 2013 – Shelved as: home-library-still-to-read
June 14, 2013 – Shelved as: home-library-to-read
June 14, 2013 – Shelved as: home-library-list
July 12, 2013 – Shelved as: home-library
July 19, 2013 – Shelved as: author-asia
July 19, 2013 – Shelved as: general-contemporary
February 6, 2014 – Started Reading
February 14, 2014 – Shelved as: z-read-2014
February 14, 2014 – Finished Reading
March 11, 2014 – Shelved as: 4-stars
August 29, 2014 – Shelved as: 1001-books

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Hi Lynda:

Nice review, very nice indeed. You said you enjoyed the writer's 'wonderful turn of phrases.' Well, I enjoyed your choice of words to describe the book, the pages turned themselves, brimming with idiosyncrasy, sarcasm, cunning, and often hilarious. Well stated, my friend.

Marked it TBR. I've always been interested in castes; your birth determines your 'lot in life' so to speak. Is that right?

I know many Indians here, starting with my doctor of 16 years. He would be blown away if I told him I read this. He would be very impressed and lord knows, I want to impress my doctor. :D


message 2: by Lynda (last edited Feb 15, 2014 09:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynda Cathy wrote: "Hi Lynda:Nice review, very nice indeed. You said you enjoyed the writer's 'wonderful turn of phrases.' Well, I enjoyed your choice of words to describe the book, the pages turned themselves, br..."

Hi Cathy, thanks for your kind words. Yeah...broadly speaking, the caste system, among other things, dictates the type of occupations a person can pursue and the social interactions that he/she may have. If my understanding is correct, castes are an aspect of Hindu religion. Other religions in India do not follow this system.

There are some wonderful Indian authors out there. My all time favourite book is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I was lost for days after reading this book; so involved was I in the story. It deepened my appreciation of India. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking and compassionate book.


message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert Splendidly done, my friend.


message 4: by Lynda (last edited Feb 18, 2014 10:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynda Robert wrote: "Splendidly done, my friend."

Hi there! Thanks so much. I think this is a book you would definitely enjoy.


message 5: by Ace (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ace Varkey i thought adiga was very brave to write such an unflattering portrait of india - a friend of mine hated the novel because he said it read like non-fiction -- i thought that was why it is so great --


Lynda Ace wrote: "i thought adiga was very brave to write such an unflattering portrait of india - a friend of mine hated the novel because he said it read like non-fiction -- i thought that was why it is so great --"

I agree with you, Ace. Sadly, the same is true of the way in which the indian workers, the 'underclass' as denoted in the book, are treated here as well. I deliver care packages to labour camps and am all too familiar with their poor conditions.


message 7: by Ace (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ace Varkey do please tell me about the labour camps -- i take it from the spelling that you are english? -- i don't know about the camps -- sounds very sad --


message 8: by Cathy (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Ace wrote: "do please tell me about the labour camps -- i take it from the spelling that you are english? -- i don't know about the camps -- sounds very sad --"

Ace...FYI, Lynda's a Kiwi and guess they're considered descendants of English, like me. But not sure about that. I'm laughing thinking of her response to you.

Take a look at her profile, she's asleep in Dubai, they're eight hours ahead of EST, where I am in Florida. I'm assuming she's asleep. And yeah, I was wondering about those camps myself. Great question.


message 9: by Ace (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ace Varkey cathy, i'm very very new to this world -- i never thought to look at her profile - i imagine she is asleep in dubai, a place i've never visited -- ditto new zealand -- i've encountered kiwis during my travels and they are the lovliest, sweetest people -- always up for an adventure -- incidentally, any help you wish to give me regarding navigating this world will be much appreciated --


message 10: by Cathy (last edited Jan 27, 2015 03:55PM) (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Ace wrote: "cathy, i'm very very new to this world -- i never thought to look at her profile - i imagine she is asleep in dubai, a place i've never visited -- ditto new zealand -- i've encountered kiwis during..."

No worries, Ace. You'll enjoy reading along with us. And no, I've never visited New Zealand nor Dubai, for that matter. I do read NatGeo though. That count???

And your description of Lynda is spot on...she is indeed lovely, sweet and adventurous. And we do know each other personally...to our mutual benefit!

By the way, I agreed with your opinion (and Lynda's) as expressed above. Great observation on your part.


Lynda Ace wrote: "cathy, i'm very very new to this world -- i never thought to look at her profile - i imagine she is asleep in dubai, a place i've never visited -- ditto new zealand -- i've encountered kiwis during..."

Cathy wrote: "Ace wrote: "cathy, i'm very very new to this world -- i never thought to look at her profile - i imagine she is asleep in dubai, a place i've never visited -- ditto new zealand -- i've encountered ..."

Ace and Cathy…somehow I missed this thread. So sorry. Thank you both for your very sweet comments. I was reminded of the characteristics of kiwis when I was home there late last year. I found it really hard to leave NZ to travel back to Dubai. For the first time, in a long time, homesick struck.

Re the camps…you may want to check this out:
http://www.bbc.com/news/25725557


message 12: by Ace (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ace Varkey Thanks for the link. I'll check it out when my head clears some more from this pesky cold that has kept me under covers, and away, as well, from Goodreads. I've heard wonderful things about NZ so I'm not surprised that you found it difficult to return to sandy Dubai. Is there a cure for homesickness? Not sure.....


Lynda Ace wrote: "Thanks for the link. I'll check it out when my head clears some more from this pesky cold that has kept me under covers, and away, as well, from Goodreads. I've heard wonderful things about NZ so I..."

Red wine and whiskey! *laughter*

I do hope you feel well soon. Perhaps imbibing in a shot of whiskey yourself may be in order, purely for medicinal purposes of course!


message 14: by Ivonne (new)

Ivonne Rovira I've owned this book for ages and haven't read it. Your lovely review will give me a much-needed nudge.


Lynda Ivonne wrote: "I've owned this book for ages and haven't read it. Your lovely review will give me a much-needed nudge."

Many thanks, Ivonne. A friend has just loaned me another book by Adiga, called Between the Assassinations. She enjoyed it as much as White Tiger. The thing I love the most about Adiga's writing is that it sizzles with acid observations, wicked humour and gentle humanity.


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