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This first novel by Indian writer Adiga depicts the awakening of a low-caste Indian man to the degradation of servitude. While the early tone of the book calls to mind the heartbreaking inequities of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, a better comparison is to Frederick Douglass's narrative about how he broke out of slavery. The protagonist, Balram Halwai, is initially delighted at the opportunity to become the driver for a wealthy man. But Balram grows increasingly angry at the ways he is excluded from society and looked down upon by the rich, and he murders his employer. He reveals this murder from the start, so the mystery is not what he did but why he would kill such a kind man. The climactic murder scene is wonderfully tense, and Balram's evolution from likable village boy to cold-blooded killer is fascinating and believable. Even more surprising is how well the narrative works in the way it's written as a letter to the Chinese premier, who's set to visit Bangalore, India. Recommended for all libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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A brutal view of India's class struggles is cunningly presented in Adiga's debut about a racist, homicidal chauffer. Balram Halwai is from the "Darkness," born where India's downtrodden and unlucky are destined to rot. Balram manages to escape his village and move to Delhi after being hired as a driver for a rich landlord. Telling his story in retrospect, the novel is a piecemeal correspondence from Balram to the premier of China, who is expected to visit India and whom Balram believes could learn a lesson or two about India's entrepreneurial underbelly. Adiga's existential and crude prose animates the battle between India's wealthy and poor as Balram suffers degrading treatment at the hands of his employers (or, more appropriately, masters). His personal fortunes and luck improve dramatically after he kills his boss and decamps for Bangalore. Balram is a clever and resourceful narrator with a witty and sarcastic edge that endears him to readers, even as he rails about corruption, allows himself to be defiled by his bosses, spews coarse invective and eventually profits from moral ambiguity and outright criminality. It's the perfect antidote to lyrical India. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved