Monday, May 25, 2009

iasa *The White Tiger, *Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger is the story of an Indian servant, Balram Halwai, and his rise to 'the social entrepreneur' class through the murder and robbery of his employer. He narrates his own story in letters to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. Over the course of a week we read of his growth from intelligent but uneducated boy, to indentured slave in a tea shop, to the driver of a upper class landlord's son.

I'm not sure why I chose this book for my list. I was unfamiliar with the plot before I began reading, not even perusing the jacket blurbs beforehand. Consequently I had no expectations ahead of time. And yet it seemed entirely predictable, inauthentic, replete with stereotypical characters and situations. All the stalwarts are represented, rich versus poor, the shining star in a pit of darkness, corruption, the hope for a better life. It's not the predictability that bothered me. It was the impression the author was trying to be shocking. There is nothing surprising about murder in abject poverty. No surprise that poverty is widespread. Perhaps making my home in a developing country makes me more aware of these things, but I think not.

Adiga can paint a visual scene, but even in his descriptions of open sewage and rampant homelessness, I feel slighted. They are too neat, merely annoyances not approached as life crushing objects. Having said that, it was not an unpleasant read. The narrative is tight and fast-paced, occasionally humorous. He has something to say but either I am not his intended audience or I am being completely oblivious, or I am grumpy today and there is no pleasing me.


moonrat said...

weeeee got this book on submission at my publishing company and chose not to offer on it. no one liked it enough. of course, from a business point of view we made a mistake. but still.

iasa said...

moonrat, that makes me feel better. I read some reviews after finishing the book, I was convinced I had missed something terribly important