Archive | June, 2011

BOOKISH: Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

17 Jun

Last Man In Tower by Aravind Adiga

Published by Atlantic Books, 16 June 2011, Hardback, £17.99

The best authors use words to create a world so vivid you can feel it, but Aravind Adiga goes even further in his new novel, creating a Mumbai so visually potent that it lingers in your mind for days. Having first shot to literary stardom in 2009 with Man Booker Prize-winning novel The White Tiger, Adiga once again uses India’s economic boom as a back-drop to his third novel, a gripping tale of monetary seduction.

Set in 21st century Mumbai, it centres around the inhabitants of a run-down tower block. When a fat-cat real estate developer offers to buy them out in order to make way for a luxury apartment complex, most of Tower A are quick to jump at the chance. Eventually all that stands in the way of the residents and a huge cash sum is Masterji, a retired schoolteacher, who refuses to be moved.

After a slightly wobbly start (the characters are so numerous that at first it’s difficult to remember who’s who), the story quickly ramps up the pace. Whilst we initially side with Masterji, a brilliantly drawn old man on a mission, he’s a far from flawless character. In the easily corruptible temperament of city life, consciences appear as quickly as they are erased, giving every character the potential to shock – and there are several surprises.

But if the subject matter’s gritty, the writing’s often startlingly poetic. Innovative and strangely captivating turns of phrase perfectly capture the city’s mixture of natural beauty, urban development and dilapidated poverty (‘People ventured out of their buildings into the water, the colour of Assam tea, on which floated rubbish and blazing light.’).

Final verdict? Dark, witty, and every bit as sharp as The White Tiger.

Ceri Radford in The Telegraph says… ‘Evocative, angry and entertaining.’

Alex Clark in The Guardian says… ‘…a subtle and nuanced examination of the nature of personal corruption.”