Do you buy books because they are award winners? I do. Ok, I do sometimes, and in the past year or so, I’ve read a lot of books that have won prizes. That includes “The White Tiger” by Aravind Aidga. This author won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008.
The narrative of “The White Tiger” is done through letters. The letters are sent to the Chinese Premier, and the letters give you a journey of a poor child from India, and the rise of his fortune. The story is a rags to riches story, and one that is highly relatable to anyone that has ever had no money, to some money, to a lot of money, and beyond. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to have a lot of money, but that’s ok, our main character Balram Halwai is here to tell us how he got himself tied up into the frenetic world of taxi driving. From a meager taxi driver to killing his boss, getting stuck in red light districts, and to the present, where he’s rich, you’re going to get through a lot of ups and downs in this book. It’s a confessional type of book that lends itself well across several type of readers, that’s for certain.
“The White Tiger” has many themes. It reminds me of a movie from Singapore called “Perth”, which is an underrated gem of grindhouse cinema. Adiga throws together an imaginative concept, about poverty, religion, and corruption, then throws you into a morality play that asks you how much you would do for money. It’s like mixing “Fight Club” with a heist film, yet it deals with a heartfelt self-awareness that a lot of similar titles do not have. There’s a bit of action, suspense, and sex appeal, all while never losing track of the larger goal of entertaining. “The White Tiger” is not a celebration of culture, instead it’s a book that turns dark many times, and even if it means being “anti” Indian culture at moments (Goh, 2011).
Adiga’s descriptions of India are vivid. His work is simple, and yet you get a balancing act of religion, tourism, and class struggle from the perspective of an average person in the impoverished country. It’s a short tile, less than 350 pages, and yet there’s emotional ques that are usually relegated to much larger books. I found myself lost in the passenger’s seat of this book, and could even see myself as the main character at times. Adiga doesn’t stray from the humanities here, and focuses on the real world drama of making money, surviving, and what it means to be alive. Balram’s story is our story, and that’s what really got me about this book.
“The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga is about 318 pages, is available in hardcover, paperback, kindle, and more. (click here)