The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

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‘The White Tiger’ won the Booker Prize earlier this year (2008). It is a tale of two very different Indias – Balram is a poor, former teashop employee, who lands a job as a chauffeur to a rich landlord. The differences between the two lives are revealed, as Balram’s aim to become as rich as his employer take shape.

I was interested to see if it could live up to all the hype. Unfortunately it didn’t. The book started off badly, with a letter from Balram, to the Chinese Premier. The informal, chatty tone grated on me, and the letter (which lasted for the majority of the book) seemed and distracted from the real story that was being told. On a positive note, I liked the suspense of how Balram’s crime was gradually revealed to the reader.

The plot was fairly average – nothing stood out as being particularly clever, or insightful. The characters lacked any depth or personalityunrealistic, and as a result I felt no compassion for their situation.

It was a reasonable read, but instantly forgettable. I wouldn’t recommend it, and it’s certainly not worthy of a Booker Prize.

Also reviewed by You’ve Gotta Read This and Mysteries in Paradise


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5 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Read this last summer. I enjoyed it well enough in the end but did find it a bit difficult to get going with it to begin with.

    I enjoyed the way it was written in the form of a (very long!) letter to the Chinese Premier. It meant the reader got a very good idea of Balram’s character, what shaped him and drove him to take the paths he did. The other characters in the story were not so well rounded – they were described only as the central character saw them, and actually I thought that was fine.

    I quite liked Balram, not the nicest character I agree, but very human and very aware of the irony behind where he started in life, how he ended up where he wanted to be and the cost of that journey.

    I’m glad I read it and although I would not rave about it as a “must read” I have passed my copy along and recommended that it is worth a read.

  2. Sussan says:

    Well new to this blog, came after I stumbled on your review of Budha Da and then traced your first self-published book.

    I liked this Jackie, wonder why you didnt. I agree anyway that Aravind didn’t grate with the letter thing.

  3. Homeless says:

    Hello, by and large I agree with your review. Mine is linked in the webiste box, but I agree that at times the plot is awful contrived. I’m also signed up to the Man Booker Blog and have posted my review there. Nice blog, keep up the good work :)

  4. Andy Larter says:

    The first time I read this I was less than impressed. However, my book group chose it and, on second reading, I got much more from it. I think it’s funny, beautifully ironic, offers a picture of Indian society which, whilst admittedly partial, I found convincing and amusing. The characters seemed more alive the 2nd time around. The lazy American-Indians, the over-violent boss and the family on the lookout for easy money all struck me as funny yet kind of honest. Occasionally I thought Adiga was offering ideas about human society in general but remembered that this is a novel, not a sociology or anthropology text. But the idea of him writing to the Chinese premier was what made the book’s humour and irony so telling. The expose of corruption from this Balram was the supreme irony. Loved it.

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