Friday, August 15, 2008

BOOK: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

what an animal!; booker longlist title 2008

I would guess that the Man Booker judges committee this year all like the same kind of book: wry commentary on society, first person narrative, confessional story, with lots of dark humor. The White Tiger had the same tone and feel to me as A Fraction of the Whole and A Case of Exploding Mangoes, and I haven't completely decided if I like this type of novel. For all three, I enjoyed the story and the humor, but I didn't care enough about the characters to want to keep reading. I continually checked to see how much farther I had to read, and I could put them down and not be interested in picking them back up, and yet, I did enjoy the books. I have learned that I prefer a more emotional book than an intellectual book. My favorite books of the summer were Crow Lake and Before Green Gables, books which focused more on personal relationships rather than social commentary.

Modern India gets the going over in The White Tiger. The caste system, the servants to the rich, the many ways the poor people are kept down, American outsourcing, the balance of the old ways with the Internet society, people with cell phones but no running water. The narrator, Balram Halwai, writes to the premier of China who is expected on a visit, telling of his entrepreneurial rise to success in India. If morals had to be slightly ignored for his success, well, too bad. He tells us from the beginning what the end will be, but the reader is kept in suspense as to how, and while I can't condone murder, he makes his case that the least damage was done for him to break out of his life and to be a success. I kind of liked Balram in the end.

The first person confessional was reminscent of The Reluctant Fundamentalist from last year's Booker shortlist, but the letter writing makes it more conventional. The writing was good, and the exposure to different cultures is always good. Adiga keeps the story moving along and it will be a good read for people who like social commentary with a dose of humor.

3 comments:

redheadramble said...

" I continually checked to see how much farther I had to read, and I could put them down and not be interested in picking them back up, and yet, I did enjoy the books."

This is how I have been feeling as well with some of the Booker titles. Not outright dislike but just vague disinterest. The Secret Scipture was good however....

Teddy Rose said...

Great review! I'm not sure what to think of this book. I do like to sink my teeth into characters and from your review, it doesn't. Hmm. There have been quite a few award wining books that I have read, that have been disappointed with.

Trish said...

I think the best books are those that can be emotional AND intellectual (although I'm not really sure what the latter means--probably both are different for everyone!). I really need to get on the ball about reading some of these booker short listers--or maybe I'll just wait for the winner. ;)