The White Tiger

I had been wanting to read this book for long now. I had heard of it so much and I hadn’t read any of Aravind Adiga‘s books until then. So, I grabbed this when I saw a copy at the library.

The white tiger

The white tiger is an engaging tale of Balram Halwai who hails from rural India and how he goes on to become the No. 2 driver for a rich family and what ensues from then on.

The book is actually a collection of letters in 7 parts to the Chinese Premier who is on a visit to India. Set to be realistic and harsh, the tone of the letters is just that. And satirical? Very. Balram talks of how the India portrayed to the foriegners is not the real India. He traces his life from a “wanted” poster of his all the while connecting the dots to the events that led him to become a murderer. Descriptions of both ends of the spectrum ( the rich and the poor) and the wide disparities are highlighted throughout the book.

Balram comes across as someone unrepentant for his actions. The author probably intended to show this character off as being the pragmatic, “call a spade, a spade” protagonist. The narrative is engaging in quite a few parts, the harsh realities of India are depicted well in certain sections and overall, there are a few sentiments I shared with the author. The life of a driver is something I didn’t know much about. This book has attempted to provide an insight into their lives to some extent.

Yet, somehow this book did not work its magic on me. The character failed to induce much empathy. I did not understand certain actions and felt angry at some instances of insensitivity. I felt as though the protagonist was himself a puppet in some parts. It may not be just another rags to riches story but I felt it could have been crafted better. I cannot put my finger on it but this book did not see me getting into the shoes of the main character. Not because I haven’t been in those circumstances but because the character did not strike a chord. At times I felt angry and Balram’s unrepentant tone throughout did not help much. There is quite a bit of India bashing happening. So, if you don’t like that, then you may not enjoy several parts of the book.

Having said that, I did finish the book pretty fast hoping for something better to happen in the succeeding pages. There are a few issues I concurred with Balram towards the end. While it did make me think in some parts, I did not emerge enlightened whatsoever. I guess I expected something more all along. Not a good attitude, frankly speaking.

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24 comments

  1. Filter Kaapi · April 22, 2013

    I had ‘exactly’ similar thoughts when I had read this book and in certain parts, left me angry

    • kismitoffeebar · April 22, 2013

      Yeah, it kind of doesn’t make sense in quite a few places.

  2. Deeps · April 22, 2013

    I dont know for some reason this book has eluded me! I too have been meaning to read it for a long time. Your review is quite compelling, Kismi..I should pick it up.

    • kismitoffeebar · April 22, 2013

      Hmm. Pick it up.,in that case. Hope you enjoy the read 🙂

  3. The Girl Next Door · April 22, 2013

    This book has had a lot of hype surrounding it but, somehow, I have never felt inclined to read it. I feel it is not my cup of tea.

    I have heard of quite a lot of people enjoying the book, and an equally large number of people being unaffected by it.

    • kismitoffeebar · April 22, 2013

      Not a book I strongly recommend TGND. But like you said, everyone has their own opinion. I came out unaffected, a little angry and even lesser insight whatsoever.
      Maybe I have this tendency to expect a lot from certain books that I end up disappointed at times 😛

  4. deepti · April 22, 2013

    Exactly how i felt….

    • kismitoffeebar · April 22, 2013

      Hi Deepti!

      Welcome here 🙂

      Ah, yes. Same pinch! 🙂

  5. Destination Infinity · April 22, 2013

    I have been wanting to read this book, but I have not picked it up due to the mixed reviews. I have read some more reviews like yours, previously. I think someday, I may read this book because it is closer to the ‘non-fiction’ genre that I read these days and I don’t much have a problem with positive/negative tones as long as sufficient info/insight (previously unknown to me) is presented. Do you think this book qualifies under this criterion?

    Destination Infinity

    • kismitoffeebar · April 22, 2013

      It is closer to non-fiction, yes. It provided me with some insight but nothing great or out of the ordinary, really!
      I don’t mind being realistic but unnecessary harsh undertones and then 0 action or unjustifiable actions don’t go well with me. But then, that’s me, right? Pick it up for it will be an experience 🙂

      • Destination Infinity · April 22, 2013

        I have decided against reading this book, now 🙂

        Destination Infinity

  6. Smita · April 22, 2013

    Read this book quite some time back and I remember liking it!!!

    • kismitoffeebar · April 23, 2013

      Yeah, I think the reviews are pretty divided 🙂 But I want to try another book by him and see if I like it.

      • Smita · April 23, 2013

        Then Last Man in Tower is the book for you.

  7. metherebel · April 22, 2013

    I have read this book long time back. I kind of have a mixed opinion about this book. Like you said I couldn’t empathize with the protagonist. Perhaps the author intended to keep the character that way.

    • kismitoffeebar · April 23, 2013

      Maybe Rebel. If so, then he pretty much succeeded 😛

  8. girlinjammies · April 23, 2013

    Even though the book had created a lot of hype, I stayed away from it because I have very mixed experiences with booker prize winners. I find them a tad ‘boring’. I am not sure whether I will pick up this book anytime soon after reading your review.

    • kismitoffeebar · April 24, 2013

      My experiences with Booker prize winners has been pretty similar. I guess it is the same with many authors, just that Booker winners seem to have that tag to them.

  9. Roshni · April 26, 2013

    I thought it was pretty bad! I hated the horrible English and, as you said, I failed to develop any empathy for any of the characters

    • kismitoffeebar · April 27, 2013

      Yeah, 0 empathy from my side as well. English was bad too 😦

  10. techie2mom · April 27, 2013

    Exactly my thoughts!!! Actually this is the very 1st book that i stopped reading in between, because i didn’t like the unapologetic tone of the protagonist!!! I felt that after reading this i will be feeling depressed hence i stopped reading it midways!!!
    Hey Toffe, i have shared a Liebster blog award with you on my food blog.. check it out….

    • kismitoffeebar · April 27, 2013

      Hey t2M 🙂
      Yeah, but somehow I guess I was being hopeful 😛

      Thanks so much ! Yay! An award can’t make you happy enough 🙂

  11. Amit · April 28, 2013

    I remember that when I read the book some years ago, my first reaction was – Why was it given the Booker?

    • kismitoffeebar · April 28, 2013

      I understand that. Well, I guess these Booker prizes tend to attract diametrically opposite reviews 🙂

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