Synopses & Reviews
Introducing a major literary talent, The White Tiger
offers a story of coruscating wit, blistering suspense, and questionable morality, told by the most volatile, captivating, and utterly inimitable narrator that this millennium has yet seen.
Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life -- having nothing but his own wits to help him along.
Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village's wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly ("Love -- Rape -- Revenge!"), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.
Balram's eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create virtue, and money doesn't solve every problem -- but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.
Sold in sixteen countries around the world, The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation -- and a startling, provocative debut.
"An exhilarating, side-splitting account of India today, as well as an eloquent howl at her many injustices. Adiga enters the literary scene resplendent in battle dress and ready to conquer. Let us bow to him." -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"Fierce and funny...A satire as sharp as it gets." - Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"Fierce and funny...A satire as sharp as it gets." - Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"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, The Sunday Times (London)
"Darkly comic. . . Balram's appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling." The New Yorker
"Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is one of the most powerful books I've read in decades. No hyperbole. This debut novel from an Indian journalist living in Mumbai hit me like a kick to the head -- the same effect Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had. - USA Today
"The White Tiger echoes masterpieces of resistance and oppression (both The Jungle and Native Son come to mind) [and] contains passages of startling beauty." - Lee Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle
"Adiga's training as a journalist lends the immediacy of breaking news to his writing, but it is his richly detailed storytelling that will captivate his audience...The White Tiger echoes masterpieces of resistance and oppression (both The Jungle and Native Son come to mind) [and] contains passages of startling beauty...A book that carefully balances fable and pure observation." - Lee Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle
"The perfect antidote to lyrical India." - Publishers Weekly
"This fast-moving novel, set in India, is being sold as a corrective to the glib, dreamy exoticism Western readers often get...If these are the hands that built India, their grandkids really are going to kick America's ass...BUY IT." - New York Magazine
"Enchanting! Mukherjee's pitch-perfect ear for character and mood and her story-telling gifts capture the exhilarating restlessness of a young Indian woman's pursuit of happiness. Miss New India
illuminates as brilliantly as it entertains."
--Amy Tan "A tightly woven narrative about naïvete and personal growth in contemporary India...Mukherjee explores Anjali's issues with understanding and sympathy."
"Each character fascinates, and every detail glints with irony and intent, as Mukherjee brilliantly choreographs her compelling protagonist's struggles against betrayal, violence, and corruption in a dazzling plot."
An ambitious small-town girl flees an arranged marriage and finds herself having all sorts of adventures -- professional, social and sexual -- in Bangalore.
Anjali Boses prospects dont look great. Born into a traditional lower-middle‑class family, she lives in a backwater town with only an arranged marriage on the horizon. But her ambition, charm, and fluency in language do not go unnoticed by her charismatic and influential expat teacher Peter Champion. And champion her he does, both to powerful people who can help her along the way and to Anjali herself, stirring in her a desire to take charge of her own destiny. So she sets off to Bangalore, Indias fastest‑growing metropolis, and soon falls in with an audacious and ambitious crowd of young people, who have learned how to sound American by watching shows like Seinfeld in order to get jobs in call centers, where they quickly out‑earn their parents. And it is in this high‑tech city where Anjali — suddenly free of the confines of class, caste, and gender — is able to confront her past and reinvent herself. Of course, the seductive pull of life in the New India does not come without a dark side . . .
About the Author
Winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, BHARATI MUKHERJEE is the author of eight novels, two story collections, and the coauthor of two books of nonfiction. She is a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
Reading Group Guide
1. The author chose to tell the story from the provocative point of view of an exceedingly charming, egotistical admitted murderer. Do Balram's ambition and charisma make his vision clearer? More vivid? Did he win you over?
2. Why does Balram choose to address the Premier? What motivates him to tell his story? What similarities does he see between himself and the Premier?
3. Because of his lack of education, Ashok calls Balram "half-baked." What does he mean by this? How does Balram go about educating himself? What does he learn?
4. Balram variously describes himself as "a man of action and change," "a thinking man," "an entrepreneur," "a man who sees tomorrow," and a "murderer." Is any one of these labels the most fitting, or is he too complex for only one? How would you describe him?
5. Balram blames the culture of servitude in India for the stark contrasts between the Light and the Darkness and the antiquated mind set that slows change. Discuss his rooster coop analogy and the role of religion, the political system, and family life in perpetuating this culture. What do you make of the couplet Balram repeats to himself: "I was looking for the key for years / but the door was always open"?
6. Discuss Balram's opinion of his master and how it and their relationship evolve. Balram says "where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell" (160). Where do you think his self-interest begins?
7. Compare Ashok and his family's actions after Pinky Madam hits a child to Balram's response when his driver does. Were you surprised at the actions of either? How does Ashok and his family's morality compare to Balram's in respect to the accidents, and to other circumstances?
8. Discuss Balram's reasons for the murder: fulfilling his father's wish that his son "live like a man," taking back what Ashok had stolen from him, and breaking out of the rooster coop, among them. Which ring true to you and which do not? Did you feel Balram was justified in killing Ashok? Discuss the paradox inherent in the fact that in order to live fully as a man, Balram took a man's life.
9. Balram's thoughts of his family initially hold him back from killing Ashok. What changes his mind? Why do you think he goes back to retrieve Dharam at the end of the novel? Does his decision absolve him in any way?
10. The novel offers a window into the rapidly changing economic situation in India. What do we learn about entrepreneurship and Balram's definition of it?
11. The novel reveals an India that is as unforgiving as it is promising. Do you think of the novel, ultimately, as a cautionary tale or a hopeful one?
The novel offers a perspective on modern India and how its economy is changing. Compare the fictional depiction in the book to nonfiction accounts; for further reading try In Spite of the Gods, Planet India, or The Elephant and the Dragon.
If you or your group has read other popular novels related to India, such as The Namesake, The Inheritance of Loss, or Brick Lane, discuss the characters and the similarities or differences you see in how the country is presented.
Have an Indian feast to accompany your book group discussion. Order from a local restaurant or try your hand at the recipes at www.indianfoodforever.com.