“I was searching for the key, but the door was open all along”. This is the central premise of The White Tiger – or it is at least the resounding message I was left with upon completion. Although the statement is made with reference to the servant (or slave) holding the keys to his own emancipation without ever realizing it, I felt that the lesson… could have much wider application in life generally. But I digress… The White Tiger is interesting, and I say that with the highest praise. I both loved and loathed the narrator, Balram Halwai, who was born into a life of servitude but broke free in an act of pre-determined murder. In this, we see that the moral highground is less of a supreme vantage point and more of a slippery transition on a precarious bridge from point A to point B. And I suspect this another truth with universal application.
The fact that I could never really pin-point exactly how I felt about Balram (I know other reviewers have been critical on this point) for me only made his character all the more real. What human being ever is exactly uniform in their beliefs and actions? Are we to really believe that heroes are completely without blemishes? Balram was telling an entirely one-sided story, without apology, and you could both understand his reasoning yet question his logic at the same time. I love it when a novel causes an internal conflict like this. And you can rest assured that the thinking starts from page one!
Beyond that, The White Tiger is just downright entertaining. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’ll definitely have you looking smug beside someone struggling through another dense chapter of, say, Sophie’s Choice.