A while ago I was looking at the list of Man Booker prize winners and this caught my eye. It won the prize in 2008 and when I saw it at the library I thought it was worth a look as it had come across my path.
This book is the story of Balram Halwai, the eponymous White Tiger, in his own words. As a boy he lived in a village and was expected to leave school to work in a tea shop. He was convinced he was destined for better things and through a combination of luck and effort lands a job as chaffeur in New Delhi for the son and daughter in law of one of the village landlords . He is an ambitious character and spending time in a city opens his eyes to how to progress in the world. He considers himself an entrepreneur but is also a criminal who is able to justify his acts and from early on we are given the suggestion he has murdered to get to where he is.
I found the way the story is presented pretty unusual and really appreciated the approach. Balram is writing a series of letters to the Chinese Premier who is due to visit India, telling him the truth about Bangalore and the Indian entrepreneur. Balram wasn't a character I could really warm to but despite his shortcomings I felt some respect for his determination to rise above his caste.
Possibly the part I enjoyed most about the book was the contrasts it provides between life in the villages of India and that in the bustling modern cities, and the places where the caste system still holds sway compared with the opportunities available to those determined to beat that system.
Unlike some other Booker prize winners I found this book really accessible and enjoyable, being a cross between a crime story and a commentary on modern Indian. In places dark and in others comic, fictional (I hope) yet informative, it's the sort of book I may re-read to pick up on things I might not have fully appreciated first time round.
Format: Paperback, from the library
My rating: 4*