The White Tiger is something so unusual it comes along only once in a generation. In the book the ‘White Tiger’ is Balram Halwai. The book is written through a series of late night letters from Balram to the Chinese Premier, Mr Jiabao, who is due to be visiting India. Balram’s story starts with him as a young boy living with his family in ‘the darkness’ – the poor north of India – and follows his life story through to adulthood and life in ‘the light’ – modern, urbanised India. The book reflects the corruption, poverty and deep caste divides in the country reinforced by the ‘rooster coop’ in which servants and their families stop reinforce the old hierarchies and stop each other from progressing and moving out of their positions in society “Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many”.
The book is clever and funny, but in an uncomfortable way as the humour is directed at the awkward differences between the rich and the poor. I was surprised to learn this was a debut novel for Aravind Adiga, it feels very confident – perhaps through the sheer arrogance of Balram’s character.
This is the first book I’ve listened to (as an adult!) as an audio book, I was sceptical initially but, whether it was the story or the format, one night this week I found myself sat outside my house still listening in the car for a couple of minutes because I wasn’t ready to stop just yet. It was a pleasure listening to this book and it gripped me from the start.
“The story of a poor mans life is written on his body, with a sharp pen”
“Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can only be said in English”
(and that, according to Balram is “what a fucking joke”)
Format read on: Audio book
Read: May 2015