On an earlier year in books I wrote that the words Booker prize usually sent me running for the hills. However looking back I'm a bit surprised the number of books I've read this year that has those words on the cover .... and here is another one.
White Tiger follows the rise of Balram Halwai from struggling to escape the heart of India's dark lands to embracing the entrepreneurial new India of the call centre capital Bangalore. However this isn't a tale of poor honest boy made good, it is a tale of corruption , bribery and murder, and the relentless divide of the haves and have nots. Told entirely in the first person through a series of e:mails to the visiting Premier of China the book stands or falls on how believable Balram's voice is.
It is a voice of humour, one that quietly mocks both himself and his situation , a naive wisdom reveals truth after truth. The voice is one of contradictions as it swings from an unsentimental acceptance of his lot to one of anger and frustration.
By then end you don't know if you've been listening to a philosopher and a revolutionary or just a murdering opportunist who is quite prepared to see his family butchered if it means he can finally break free.
The picture painted of India is razor sharp with nothing feeling false or contrived. This is achieved through the matter of factness and economy of language as Balram views his world with an unblinking eye and hiding the horror of poverty through the blackest humour
Not the best book of 2008 (what Booker prize winner ever is) but one that whether you have been to India or not will suck you in.
You can buy White Tiger here