By and large "The White Tiger," is an engaging novel about a young man trying to make his way in the world. The book is based around the journey of Balram, a young Indian who wishes to exceed the social boundaries of the caste system and gain a higher status than the other members of his village. As the novel progresses we are made aware that financial reward comes at a price and we are posed questions about the cost of rapid industrialisation in India.
Adiga may not always write in perfect prose and at times his narrative lacks coherence but his writing pervades a genuine warmth and is frequently amusing. Balram's exchanges with his pen pal the Chinese Prime Minister are especially amusing, quips about yoga and how he does not know how he "would cope in this fucking business without it," are particularly funny.
Although generally well written the plot falls down wherein Balram becomes gradually more selfish even at the expense of his family. This selfishness coupled with his erratic behaviour toward his master makes him unlikeable in parts, even when subservient to his family and his master we are made aware he is only doing this for his own gain, further distancing him from the reader. Additionally Balram frequently preaches the importance of education but he often displays blatant ignorance, such as when proclaiming the names of the four greatest poets to ever live but only being able to remember three of their names. Balram also shows racial tendencies constantly reminding the reader of how he respects the poets as they have excelled themselves above "normal," Muslims. Character traits such as these do not make him appear complex, rather they show him to be shallow and conceited. The book is presented through Balram writing a letter to the Chinese government and the parallels between both nations rise to modern global powers and the marginalisation of the rural lower classes is conveyed effectively, whilst educating the reader on a subject they may be unfamiliar with.
In general this book is entertaining, if only on a superficial level. The story of a poor boy's journey to becoming a rich man has been told thousands of times, where "The White Tiger," succeeds is making this story appear fresh and interesting. A more likeable protagonist would move this from being a good novel into a great one.