Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I have been in such extreme reading mode to the complete and utter neglect of my knitting and crochet. This may be the year I complete the fewest projects since I started knitting and crocheting. It is what it is. I just really have not been in the mood to work with my hands.

In any case, I just completed The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. This book was a most interesting read--different from anything I've read in a long time. Balram Hawai, the protagonist, tells the story in the form of a letter to a Chinese Premier who will be visiting India soon. Why he chooses to write to this official? We don't know but we do understand that he has a deep admiration for China and the Chinese. I did enjoy the book although at times the author's incising critique of society and politics in India felt heavy handed. It was violent at times and really, if you're looking for a book full of tenderness and quaint stories about India, this is not the one. The author relates in graphic detail extreme poverty, rampant political corruption, as well as the often stifling and violent class structures and struggles and yet manages to infuse his tale with a kind of dry humor. Halwai comes from very humble beginnings, the son of a rickshaw puller who dies pitifully of curable tuberculosis. He manages to secure himself as one of two drivers to a very wealthy family. Soon, he drives the older/main driver out by revealing that he is Muslim (which points to the fact that there religious discrimination in India is very much alive). Halwai relishes is position as the main driver. It's a good job and his family back home knows it. He shirks his responsibility to his family by refusing to send money home--and we realize that he has really cut himself off/liberated himself from them, effectively separating himself from his roots (aka "the Darkness"). The turning point in this novel is when his master's wife kills a young child during a drunken joyride and his master tries to pin the crime on him. Something in him changes and you start to feel a fire burning in him. It's turns out to be quite deadly. I found it interesting that Halwai never really feels regret or takes responsibility for killing his master. As the reader, you find yourself feeling victorious along with Halwai that he is able to get away with it. He finds a way to break out of the chicken coop and you can't help but say, "Hooray! One for the underdog!" It's tempered though, by darkness because you know that the retribution the murdered master's family will take is to torture and murder Halwai's family. You wonder at the kind of soul that could accept that if it meant his own personal freedom. Still, during his fugitive run, Halwai takes along with him the young nephew or cousin who his family has sent to live with him realizing that the authorities would think the young boy was an accomplice to the murder and incarcerate him. Since "awful things" happen to boys in jail, Halwai takes the risk of coming back for the young boy. He's just such a complex and difficult to understand character! On the one hand, he's noble and caring. On the other, cold and conniving. Who is the true Balram Halwai? Good or evil? Both.

It stood out to me when he referenced yoga and Gandhi because as Westerners, we can be so oblivious to other places that often when we think of countries like India, that is what it all boils down to for us: Yoga and Gandhi.

I borrowed The White Tiger from the library a few weeks ago and took a while to get into it. When I went to renew it, it was on hold for someone else. I put it on hold again and it came in very quickly. I finished it last night. I wish I had more time and focus to give a more detailed review but I really enjoyed the book. I also finished My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult last week. I will review that soon, hopefully.

Books are my sanity.

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

This is on my request list at the library. It's a long waiting list so I'm hoping I enjoy it.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
I hope you enjoy my musings that I share with you here on my blog. If you would like to use any written content on my blog, please ask and/or reference my blog correctly. Thank you.