This book was rubbish. Just kidding, it was great! An account of the life of a self-made Indian entrepreneur and murderer, Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is both funny and furiously angry.
Born into poverty in a village in rural India, to a dying mother and a rickshaw pulling father, Balram Halwai tells us his story in the form of an extended letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about the reality behind “modern Indian entrepreneurship.” Taken out of school by his grasping family and forced to work as a cleaner in the village tea shop, Balram is determined to get out of the Darkness (the countryside) and into the Light (the city). But when he does, as the driver of the son of a local landlord, he discovers that the crushing weight of inequality weighs upon him there too, just as it did in the village. As a servant, even to such a relatively enlightened master as Mr. Ashok, Balram is trapped in a cage of expectation, exploitation and humiliation, and it takes an act of ruthless violence to set him "free."
This is an absolutely unromantic portrayal of modern India. Balram’s story is one of shocking inequality and corruption. Through his eyes we see an India of binary opposites: of Darkness and Light, of flashy shopping malls and disgusting slums, of outsourcing call centers and back street brothels, of rich and poor, of masters and servants, described with often brutal frankness. Even so, I particularly liked the way Balram’s expressions of anger were often related almost as afterthoughts, as if they surprised even him, as if he himself was too inured to his position to be able to articulate or reflect upon his anger explicitly.
That the book is somehow scathing and funny at the same time is down to the unique voice given to Balram by Adiga. This is a book about injustice, but it isn't a book only about injustice, it's also about a great character, a funny and charming narrator, and the book is great precisely because he is.