Synopses & Reviews
Searing. Explosive. Lyrical. Compassionate. Here is the astonishing new novel by the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The White Tiger,
a book that took rage and anger at injustice and turned it into a thrilling murder story. Now, with the same fearlessness and insight, Aravind Adiga broadens his canvas to give us a riveting story of money and power, luxury and deprivation, set in the booming city of Mumbai.
At the heart of this novel are two equally compelling men, poised for a showdown. Real estate developer Dharmen Shah rose from nothing to create an empire and hopes to seal his legacy with a building named the Shanghai, which promises to be one of the city’s most elite addresses. Larger-than-life Shah is a dangerous man to refuse. But he meets his match in a retired schoolteacher called Masterji. Shah offers Masterji and his neighbors—the residents of Vishram Society’s Tower A, a once respectable, now crumbling apartment building on whose site Shah’s luxury high-rise would be built—a generous buyout. They can’t believe their good fortune. Except, that is, for Masterji, who refuses to abandon the building he has long called home. As the demolition deadline looms, desires mount; neighbors become enemies, and acquaintances turn into conspirators who risk losing their humanity to score their payday.
Here is a richly told, suspense-fueled story of ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none: the new India as only Aravind Adiga could explore—and expose—it. Vivid, visceral, told with both humor and poignancy, Last Man in Tower is his most stunning work yet.
"When Mumbai was still Bombay, the apartment building became the new village, inhabitants growing up and old together, intertwined in one another's rhythms and needs. Tower A of the Vishram Society is one such building both a character and the setting in this highly allegorical yet riveting novel, Adiga's first since winning the Man Booker Prize for The White Tiger. Here, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Communists have lived together for decades, finding recent common ground in their suspicions about the new 'modern' single girl in 3B. But when a developer offers each resident an astronomical sum to move out so that he might build a luxury condo, greed threatens to destroy the community. But one holdout, the teacher Mr. Masterji, is determined that knowledge and principle will protect him. Though occasionally overwritten ('The hypodermic needle of the outside world had bent at his epidermis and never penetrated'), Adiga is a master of pacing. The momentum builds as Masterji's neighbors become consumed by money, allowing Adiga to show his characters grappling with circumstances, and enduring difficult changes of heart. Adiga takes a harsh look at Mumbai's new wealth, but his characters are more than archetypes. Though the allure of capitalism has won them over, the inhabitants of Tower A are at the mercy of the rich as much as their neighbor, the teacher, is at the mercy of them. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Aravind Adiga’s first novel since his Man Booker Prize–winning best seller The White Tiger
(“Amazing . . . One of the most powerful books I’ve read in decades” —Deirdre Donahue, USA Today):
a stunning, darkly comic story of greed and murder that lays bare the teeming metropolis of Mumbai.
Real estate developer Dharmen Shah’s offer to buy out the residents of Vishram Society—a formerly respectable, now crumbling apartment complex that abuts the infamous Dharavi slums—is more than generous. But one man stands in the way of Shah’s luxury high- rise: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher who will not leave his home in Vishram’s Tower A. Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbors—friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co- conspirators—may stop at nothing to score their payday.
An electrifying, suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation, peopled by brilliantly drawn, unforgettable characters, Last Man in Tower exposes the hearts and minds of the everymen and women of a great, booming city—ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none.
About the Author
Aravind Adiga is the author of The White Tiger, which was awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize, and a collection of stories, Between the Assassinations. He was born in India and attended Columbia and Oxford universities. He is a former correspondent for Time magazine whose work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Sunday Times (London), and the Financial Times, among other publications. He lives in India.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Last Man in Tower, Aravind Adiga’s vivid, compulsively readable follow-up to his award–winning novel The White Tiger.
1. What are some of the major themes of the novel? How does Adiga set them forth even in the first pages through his description of Vishram Society? What do you think the banyan tree symbolizes?
2. The novel begins, “If you are inquiring about Vishram Society, you will be told right away that it is pucca—absolutely, unimpeachably pucca.” What does the word pucca mean? Why is this fact about Vishram important to the story?
3. How does Adiga use humor as social commentary?
4. On page 7, there is a quote adapted from the Bhagavad Gita: “I was never born and I will never die; I do not hurt and cannot be hurt; I am invincible, immortal, indestructible.” Which characters in the novel seem to feel this way?
5. Why is Masterji so respected at the beginning of the novel? How would he be treated in the United States?
6. According to Masterji, his wife’s favorite saying was “ ‘Man is like a goat tied to a pole.’ Meaning, all of us have some free will but not too much” (page 41). Does this prove true for him?
7. There are dozens of scenes that revolve around food. What do the characters’ eating habits tell us about them?
8. Is Dharmen Shah a villain? What are his intentions? Who else might be considered a villain in the story?
9. Discuss Masterji’s friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Pinto. Does envy come into play? How does the offer change their relationship?
10. What is the symbolism behind Mr. Kothari’s flamingos? What are some of the other characters’ influential memories?
11. There are several instances of betrayal in the novel. Whose struck you as most shocking?
12. The offer brings out many different emotions and reactions from the residents of Vishram. In general, how is the reaction of the women different from that of the men in the building?
13. Several of the characters have children, Masterji included. How does their role as parents influence their decision-making? How does parenting in the novel’s modern-day India compare to parenting in the United States?
14. After reading the sign his neighbors have posted criticizing him, Masterji thinks, “A man is what his neighbours say he is” (page 196). Is this true in the novel? How does that notion affect Masterji? Do you think the neighbors’ opinions were entirely new or had just lain dormant until he refused the offer?
15. What role does class play in the story? How does the neighbors’ treatment of Mary and Ram Khare reflect their attitudes in general?
16. Why do you think Mr. Pinto changes his mind about accepting the offer? Is it only about the money or are there other reasons as well?
17. When Shah hears the news about Masterji, he says, “ ‘I thought it would be a push down the stairs, or a beating at night. That’s all…I forgot we were dealing with good people’” (pages 358–359). What does he mean?
18. Why does Ajwani refuse to sign?
19. The last line of the novel is, “Nothing can stop a living thing that wants to be free.” What is this referring to?
20. Why doesn’t Masterji just agree to sell? What would you have done?