A fascinating look inside India's present

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

I love narratives that concentrate on few characters. The main reason is that this naturally allows for greater internal exploration (as did my favorite read of the year so far, The Sheltering Sky). Some books are about events and some books are about people. I tend to favor the latter, like this novel The White Tiger, winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

 

Here's a book that cleverly uses an epistolary structure, with main character, Indian entrepreneur Balram Halwai, penning a long letter to the visiting Chinese Premier. It's interesting what this little conceit does to the writer/reader relationship, allowing for a natural tendency to explain elements of the story to an audience unfamiliar with Indian culture, without the usual tricks of narration used to bring this about. Additionally, there is something about this idea of being directly addressed through a letter that makes the reader sit up and maintain focus on the story to a greater degree. It's a fantastic idea in this case, especially as the thematic territory of The White Tiger has so much to do with the ways of Indian culture in the 21st century. Balram details his humble beginnings and then (and here's where most of the story centers) lucks into the job of a chauffeur for a wealthy Indian family. In this way, we get to see plenty related to the class differences in India - a dynamic that author Aravind Adiga beautifully elucidates through the observations and realizations of Balram. I began in a state of interest with this book, but as the story deepened, I became absolutely engrossed. Really enjoyed this one!