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The International Writers Magazine: Review

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Publisher: Atlantic Books
ISBN-13: 978-1843547204
Winner of the Man Boker Prize 2008
Karren Murray Gow


The book is narrated through the eyes of, Balram.  A lower caste sweet maker from the country who against all the odds is determined to move up the castes, he succeeds. But the price that he pays is high. Success means more than just personal sacrifice. Turning his abuse and demoralisation into lessons, he learns how to think like a master. He is the result of a dog that has been kicked once too often and bites back. Balram does indeed become an employer of men; a true entrepreneur.

      Balram proudly reveals his rags to riches story via his emails to a Chinese Dignitary, who is due to visit India. His deluded self-importance is written in childlike prose. This enhances his naivety and understanding of the world. It engages the reader into a sympathetic pitying relationship with Balram; neither loving nor hating this character. Aravind Adiga cleverly uses ironic humour to lighten the heaviness of degradation. His skill of evoking the most beautiful and the ugliest of imagery are in themselves inspiring.

      I read this book in the hope to remind me of the enigma of India.  It not only conjured up the chaos of noise, the pungent smells and fumes chocked with dust but the animalistic desperation of survival , as a community  inhumanely exists, on the edge. If I was looking for the real India Aravind Adiga delivers the part of India, which remains in the memory of many an intrepid travel who has experienced the Mumbai slums and Delhi’s streets. They will hear the voices of the hands that looked for help. The poor the lower castes, their suffering   haunts its pages. 

      I also read this book to see why The White Tiger won the 2008 Booker prize. I found out. It is beautifully written and intelligently structured, a portrayal of social realism, which is all too evident in a proportion of India.  A journey through a ‘Dickensian time warp’, only differentiated by colours,  and tragically, unlike Oliver Twist, thousands of people in 2010 still suffer this existence.

      It is written in the first person. Its format being reflective, introduces the reader to Balram’s crime in the first chapter. This defuses any potential of, will he? Won’t he? tension. This book therefore would not be appreciated by those who prefer a bit more suspense leading up to the crime. However, your tension is with Balram, as he leads you painfully through his journey to his final sacrifice; which frees him. If you want to experience the poorer side of India, complete with ‘culture shock', without even packing your rucksack, it’s a must.
© Karren Murray Gow Feb 2010

Karren has just written her first young fiction novel and is studying for her MA in Creative Writing

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