I haven’t reviewed a book in quite a long time, and this will be my last book review (and indeed last review, with only my top ten films of the year article left) of the year. And there is probably no better book for me to have returned with, and then closed on, than this one.
The White Tiger is written by Aravind Adiga, and it follows a man from a poor class in Northern India, who finds a way to become a driver – and servant – for one of the super rich families of the country.
However, the book is about so much more than that. The White Tiger is about class, money, corruption, loyalty, and the ever-fading line between good and bad.
And it is, undeniably, dark. It is rather surprising, then, that it is such an easy read, because this is how Adiga crafts the narration of the book. Similar in some ways to The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The White Tiger literally speaks to you, although in this case, you actually are someone. Specifically, you are Premier Wen Jiabao, a Chinese authority figure. This itself is quite clever, as the book’s satirical views about democracy are addressed to someone who does not believe in the concept.
It is this relaxed narration, laced with euphemism, that enables you to read through the book so effortlessly, and therefore reflect on its story and underlying commentary so clearly. Despite being so terrifyingly depressing in its depiction of the political system and class system in India, The White Tiger gets by this simply because its depiction is real. It would be a betrayal to the reader if it held back any detail, and it very much doesn’t.
The raw product the reader does receive is funny, witty, cheeky and yet so eye-opening. Even the narrator, the protagonist, is not necessarily what most people would call ‘good’. Nobody is really good or bad, everyone is just a person, and the book illustrates well that everyone isn’t so different. While so many other things do this in a good light, The White Tiger does so in a bad light too. That’s what makes it stand out.
The White Tiger is a book that not many would end up loving, but everyone who reads it will end up being impacted by it. It is smart, satirical, dark and moving. It deserves to be read.
On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:
The White Tiger: MIHIR