Tuesday 16 June 2009

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

An eye-opening story set in modern India, a country of start contrasts between rich and poor, between the Light and the Darkness, between men with fat bellies and men with thin bellies.  It's a rapid and easy read - cynical, provocative, and entertaining.

The format of the book is a series of emails sent by the narrator to a Chinese head of state due to visit India, to explain the truth about being an Indian entrepreneur.  In essence, it's a very moral tale, it exposes corruption in all its forms, the extraordinary poverty in an upwardly mobile society, the blurred moral boundaries.  In spite of it all, I have a lingering sympathy for Balram.

In India, 76% live below the poverty limit of $2 a day, compared to 73% in Sub-Saharan Africa.  People forget this, probably because there is the "new" India, the world of technology and entrepreneurs, the world that Balram wants to join.  It is this contrast that is brought out so very well in the book.
The dreams of the rich and the dreams of the poor - they never overlap, do they?
See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of?  Losing weight and looking like the poor.

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Monday 1 June 2009

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

A very enjoyable read, but it didn't flow very smoothly, nor was it a page turner.  I thought the descriptions of local people and life in the village very interesting and not too patronising or over-romanticised as so many are in this type of book.  In my view it was much better than Under the Tuscan Sun which had a very self-satisfied tone that I didn't like.

I would have liked more information about Annie and her sister - it was a bit of a mystery how they transformed from holiday workers on the rose farm into part-time residents, or did I miss something?  What did they do in England and how were they able to travel back and forth so often?  I imagine the reason was to maintain some privacy, but it bothered me somehow.

The structure seemed to me to be a little odd. At first I thought it was going to be a description of a single year, only to realise that it was progressing through the years as well as the seasons. At times that gave a confusing/disjointed impression and it made it hard to follow in places.

Nevertheless it was a very entertaining read and one I would recommend to anyone interested in Italy.
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