Published by Atlantic Books on January 1st 1970
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This book has been described as a “stunning literary debut”…it was not so stunning for me. I really struggled in the beginning of this book. I had the book for days and would begin it and put it down. I finally read it mostly in one day due to it being due back at the library and not because I was captivated by it. I like to finish things I start so I powered through it.
While reading this book, I kept looking at the high marks from other reviewers. I scratched my head and kept thinking “what am I missing?” but in reality, we are not all going to like, let alone love the same book. I did not find it to be witty, or captivating at all. It is a commentary on class systems.
Balram is telling the story of his life via a letter written in seven nights. Balman is an intelligent man who is born into poverty. At one point, as a child, he is the only one his age who could read and write. He became knows as the “White Tiger” because they are rare. He is expected to continue in his family’s business because that is what is done and that is what is expected. Blaman is forced to leave school to help pay for his cousin’s dowry. He initially works in a tea shop where he becomes a “good listener” and goes on to become a driver. This is where his life really takes a turn. He is introduced to corruption, crime, lying, etc. He also gets his first glimpse into the huge divide between the “haves” and the “have nots. ” There is a HUGE divide between the wealthy and the poor. Balman decides which part of the divide he wants to be on and sets about to improve his life not matter what it takes to get ahead.
Without giving too much away, Balman makes a decision to do something to help his situation and to better himself. After committing the act, he continues to be involved in corruption and bribery in order to better himself and become an entrepreneur.
I really did not care for Balman or his message. He commits a horrible act, does not really feel sorry for it, nor does he really care that his family is almost gone. He feels as if his success and happiness is worth their lives. Maybe something was lost on me. Or perhaps that is the Author’s statement…that people are left to commit desperate acts where there are huge divides in caste systems and that good exists with the bad, etc. People get trapped in their roles – a sweet maker can only make sweets, etc. This book shows what happens when you get trapped in your role..whether that be a sweet maker, a criminal, a corrupt police officer. It shows that people who do bad things may still have a conscious and try to make amends i.e. killing someone and then making amends to their family etc. But does make a “right” after a “wrong” justify things? I do not think so.
Either way this book was barely a 3 star for me. It failed to WOW me as it has wowed others.