White Tiger (Adiga) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
Extraordinary and brilliant... At first, this novel seems like a straightforward pulled-up-by-your-bootstraps tale, albeit given a dazzling twist by the narrator's sharp and satirical eye for the realities of life for India's poor... But as the narrative draws the reader further in, and darkens, it becomes clear that Adiga is playing a bigger game... Adiga is a real writer—that is to say, someone who forges an original voice and vision. There is the voice of Halwai—witty, pithy, ultimately psychopathic... Remarkable... I will not spoil the effect of this remarkable novel by giving away ... what form his act of blood-stained entrepreneurship takes. Suffice to say that I was reminded of a book that is totally different in tone and style, Richard Wright's Native Son, a tale of the murderous career of a black kid from the Chicago ghetto that awakened 1940s America to the reality of the racial divide. Whether The White Tiger will do the equivalent for today's India—we shall see.
Adam Lively - Sunday Times (London)


Self-mocking and utterly without illusions—is as compelling as it is persuasive, and one of the triumphs of the book. Adiga has a finely alert eye and ear...Adiga has been gutsy in tackling a complex and urgent subject. His is a novel that has come not a moment too soon.
Soumya Bhattacharya - Independent (UK)


First-time author Adiga has created a memorable tale of one taxi driver's hellish experience in modern India. Told with close attention to detail, whether it be the vivid portrait of India he paints or the transformation of Balram Halwai into a bloodthirsty murderer, Adiga writes like a seasoned professional. John Lee delivers an absolutely stunning performance, reading with a realistic and unforced East Indian dialect. He brings the story to life, reading with passion and respect for Adiga's prose. Lee currently sits at the top of the professional narrator's ladder; an actor so gifted both in his delivery and expansive palette of vocal abilities that he makes it sound easy.
Publishers Weekly


This first novel by Indian writer Adiga depicts the awakening of a low-caste Indian man to the degradation of servitude. While the early tone of the book calls to mind the heartbreaking inequities of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, a better comparison is to Frederick Douglass's narrative about how he broke out of slavery. The protagonist, Balram Halwai, is initially delighted at the opportunity to become the driver for a wealthy man. But Balram grows increasingly angry at the ways he is excluded from society and looked down upon by the rich, and he murders his employer. He reveals this murder from the start, so the mystery is not what he did but why he would kill such a kind man. The climactic murder scene is wonderfully tense, and Balram's evolution from likable village boy to cold-blooded killer is fascinating and believable. Even more surprising is how well the narrative works in the way it's written as a letter to the Chinese premier, who's set to visit Bangalore, India. Recommended for all libraries.
Evelyn Beck - Library Journal


What makes an entrepreneur in today's India? Bribes and murder, says this fiercely satirical first novel. Balram Halwai is a thriving young entrepreneur in Bangalore, India's high-tech capital. China's Premier is set to visit, and the novel's frame is a series of Balram's letters to the Premier, in which he tells his life story. Balram sees India as two countries: the Light and the Darkness. Like the huddled masses, he was born in the Darkness, in a village where his father, a rickshaw puller, died of tuberculosis. But Balram is smart, as a school inspector notices, and he is given the moniker White Tiger. Soon after, he's pulled out of school to work in a tea shop, then manages to get hired as a driver by the Stork, one of the village's powerful landlords. Balram is on his way, to Delhi in fact, where the Stork's son, Mr. Ashok, lives with his Westernized wife, Pinky Madam. Ashok is a gentleman, a decent employer, though Balram will eventually cut his throat (an early revelation). His business (coal trading) involves bribing government officials with huge sums of money, the sight of which proves irresistible to Balram and seals Ashok's fate. Adiga, who was born in India in 1974, writes forcefully about a corrupt culture; unfortunately, his commentary on all things Indian comes at the expense of narrative suspense and character development. Thus he writes persuasively about the so-called Rooster Coop, which traps family-oriented Indians into submissiveness, but fails to describe the stages by which Balram evolves from solicitous servant into cold-blooded killer. Adiga's pacing is off too, as Balram too quickly reinvents himself in Bangalore, where every cop can be bought. An undisciplineddebut, but one with plenty of vitality.
Kirkus Reviews

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