(audio) book review: The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (read by John Lee)

frightening, evocative, but not very sympathetic

A good friend recommended this strongly, and it won the 2008 Booker Prize, so I gave it a try. The Booker committee said “Balram’s journey from darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable.”  I agree with 1, 2, maybe 4, and 3 if you take off the “deeply” and even then only reluctantly.

The protagonist – Balram – is some kind of entrepreneur who is writing letters to the premier of China to tell him about the true India. Balram tells of his rise from poor village boy to tea shop worker to … well, I won’t give too much away. But Balram does not allow himself to be bound by traditional norms of morality around, say, killing. And other stuff. The power in the novel is demonstrating how poverty can breed an amorality that is chaotic and frightening. But I only came to find the protagonist sympathetic towards the very end, up until which I merely found him offputting (and scary). I don’t think, if I were to turn back time, that I would read it again.

Note on content: I don’t remember reading a book with more f-words. There is violence. There is significant sex talk. This is a dark world of crushing poverty and desperation.

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