The White Tiger is a social realist, epistolary novel set in India and narrated by Balram Halwai, who explains how he became the successful entrepreneur he is. It examines the complexities of class struggle, corruption, morality, and wealth, and questions what it truly means to attain dignity and freedom.
Generally, I think this book was really well-written and definitely had its merits, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable for me.
Something I really enjoyed about this book were the characters and how complex they each were. I feel like each of them were morally grey in one way or another, and though there were some a lot more questionable than others, each individual had some sort of struggle they were grappling with. I also found interesting that the class or status of an individual didn’t really dictate how corrupt or not they were, and how wealth didn’t necessarily determine freedom. This meant that as angry I felt at some of the characters, I couldn’t help but feel pity for them.
The narration was also really interesting. Because the novel is narrated by present-Balram discussing his past and how he got to where he is now, I enjoyed trying to distinguish which moments were based on the values of past-Balram and which were based on that of the more experienced present-Balram. I think it was that distinction that made this book so much more meaningful. I also liked the wit and sarcasm in the narration, though there were definitely a few instances where I missed the sarcasm and misread Balram/Adiga’s commentary. Still, this was definitely a book that pushed me to be actively critical while reading it, and I really appreciated this element of the book.
One thing I didn’t really like about this book was the pacing. I felt like the first chapters or so were a bit slow and though they were necessary to set up the context of the story, they paled in comparison to the action of the last few chapters of the book, where so much more happened. It could just be a personal-taste thing, but I feel like it made it hard for me to fall into the story and connect with the characters.
Also, I feel like this was a book that just didn’t really click with me. I was definitely moved at times during the story, but aside from the times I was actively analyzing the book, I felt like I was mostly just reading the book for its plot, which I wasn’t really able to get into.
Overall, the book’s themes were complex and thought-provoking, and the writing style was really humorous and just very punchy. While I didn’t find the book terribly gripping and I didn’t love the style, it was still a really great story and I don’t regret reading it.