Tag: Bestseller Code 100 (page 2 of 9)

#BestsellerCode100: Number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alexa Maria McKenzie needs money badly. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan has to have a wife right away. She is his sister’s childhood friend, so getting married as a business arrangement seems the best solution. Or is it?

This novel is part of the bestselling Marriage to a Billionaire trilogy.

 

 

Have you read The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Have you written about The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader (2007) –  Discussion begins December 11, 2017
Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review of The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Gudenkauf’s novel hooked me from the first page of the Prologue, where young Calli appears out of the woods and speaks for the first time in three years.  Why is there a deputy sheriff on the scene? What happened in the woods that caused Calli to speak?  What did she say?  And why did she quit speaking in the first place?  Who is Petra and why does her father crumble to the ground when Calli speaks?  So many questions to be answered!

This post does contain spoilers.

 

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Clear Your Calendar

Don’t plan on getting anything else done when you pick up this book.  I stayed up way too late two nights in a row to finish this book.  Several times I put it down to try to sleep and lay there thinking about the characters, wondering what was going to happen next, and then ended up picking it back up to read more.  By presenting the story from the viewpoint of different characters, the plot line moves along quickly and the suspense builds throughout.  Several character options are presented as the possible bad guy and since each are plausible, you really cannot guess who “did it” until the very end.

Silence

At first it seems apparent that the word “silence” in the title refers to Calli Clark, who has been a selective mute for the past 3 years.  Calli’s silence is only the most obvious.  Several other characters employ various modes of silence in order to cope with untenable situations.  Calli’s mother Antonia creates in her mind alternate versions of the episodes of abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband, Griff, hiding from herself how truly bad her family situation is.  Sheriff Lewis kept silent years ago when Antonia told him that she was marrying Griff,  when he knew he should have spoken up and tried to prevent that marriage, and he continues to subsume his love for Antonia, to the detriment of his own marriage.

Difficult Topics

The Weight of Silence deals with some very uncomfortable topics – alcoholism, spousal abuse, kidnapping, child sexual assault – so if these topics are not something you can handle, then you should skip this book.  That said, Gudenkauf handles these difficult and uncomfortable topics in a very tasteful manner, if that’s possible.  Certain subjects are carefully alluded to without being graphic or gory.

Author Heather Gudenkauf hit a home run the first time out with her debut suspense novel.  I’ve recommended my local public library acquire all of her novels and look forward to reading them soon.

Disclaimer:  I had so very much more to say about this excellent book, but have been sick since Thanksgiving Day and my fuzzy brain isn’t working on all cylinders.  My apologies for an abbreviated review.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf? Feel free to add a link to your review to the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst (2012) – Discussion begins November 27, 2017
Romance

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Let’s take a look at Heather Gudenkauf’s fabulous The Weight of Silence  from a writer’s perspective. It is Number 73 on The Bestseller Code Challenge list.

This post contains spoilers.

 

The Weight of Silence

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Two young girls, Calli and her friend Petra, disappear from their homes  early one hot August morning. The tension builds as their families struggle to find them. Will they be too late?

The Weight of Silence is Heather Gudenkauf’s debut novel. Some of her newer titles include Not a Sound and Missing Pieces.

Genre

These days many novels have the label (or mislabel) “suspense,” but The Weight of Silence is a pitch perfect example of the genre (see explanation in previous post). Before we’re too far into the story, we learn a little bit about how each girl goes missing. Because of that, now we are glued to the pages as the tension mounts. Will they be found before something worse happens?

All the textbooks in the future should have The Weight of Silence under the definition of suspense. Yes, it’s that good.

Characters

The chapters are named for and narrated by different characters, mostly in the first person. For example, the prologue is narrated by Antonia, who the mother of one of the missing girls. In the first chapter we meet Calli, a seven-year-old girl who refuses to speak. With one exception, the author tells her story in tight third person, which reflects Calli not having a voice.

Calli’s best friend and neighbor Petra Gregory is the focus of the next chapter, again told in first person. In later chapters we meet Petra’s father Martin, Deputy Sheriff Lewis (who has a history with Antonia), and Calli’s older brother Ben.

In contrast to the forceful voices of A Day Late and A Dollar Sort , the differences between the voices of Gudenkauf’s  characters are much more subtle.  A few reviewers have called the author out for not developing clearer lines between the characters. but I’m not sure I agree. Yes, writers are taught to make each character sound unique. From a reader’s perspective, however, it might be easier to read if the text has less jarring shifts. After all, at some level we know one author is telling the entire story. Do we really need vastly divergent voices to be able to suspend disbelief? What do you think?

Setting

Gudenkauf does an excellent job of giving the reader a sense of place. The Weight of Silence is set in Willow Creek, Iowa (Check this cool map of the settings of all of Gudenkauf’s novels).  The families are isolated, far away from town. The girls are lost in  the surrounding forest, which adds to the ominous atmosphere.  It is a hot August day and the reader can feel the oppressive heat. Each detail of the setting ratchets up the tension.

Public Domain photo via VisualHunt

Discussion

There’s so much to discuss about this novel it is hard to know where to start. I’m going to mention a couple that stood out for me that haven’t been mentioned in a lot of other reviews.

Right in the beginning the details of Calli’s school life caught my eye. For example, a child who didn’t speak at school would have a terrible time asking to go to the restroom, and “urinary accidents” would be a forgone conclusion. I remember my son’s first grade teacher complaining that her classroom was farthest from the restrooms and how many of her students put off asking to go until it was too late. It was not surprising to read Heather Gudenkauf spent many years as an elementary school teacher. Those incidental details helped make the story ring true.

In addition, I liked how the author chose have Petra’s father Martin narrate rather than Petra’s mother. The contrast between the two fathers worked nicely. Because Martin tended to act impulsively, he drove some of the later conflict, as well. His viewpoint of how devastated Petra’s mother was gave the reader perspective.

As a reader I found this book hard to put down. The suspense pulled me in and made me want to find out what happened on the next page, then the next, then the next. Resist the temptation to skim, however, because Gudenkauf has packed in many good things that build on each other.  Because it succeeded in pulling me out of the writer’s perspective, which is a rare thing these days, it is worth taking a deeper look at this author’s bag of writing tricks.

Have you read The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about  The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf? Feel free to add a link to your review to the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst (2012) – Discussion begins November 27, 2017
Romance

#BestsellerCode100: Number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Two young girls, Calli and her friend Petra, go missing in the night. Now their families struggle to find out what happened to them.

This is Heather Gudenkauf’s debut novel.

Have you read The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about  The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf? Feel free to add a link to your review to the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst (2012) – Discussion begins November 27, 2017
Romance

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of Terry McMillan’s A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Let’s take a look at  A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan from a writer’s perspective (the discussion for the novel began here.)

This post contains spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel is a peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Strengths of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

Each chapter of the novel is narrated from the first person point of view by one of several different members of the Price family. Moving from character to character might be confusing in some hands, but Terry McMillan is adept at it. You can identify the voice of the featured family member readily. With an an amazing ear, she plays with slang, dialect, rhythm, and sentence length to give each character a memorable voice. They talk, think and act like a real, recognizable people.

Characters’ Voices

How does the author change the voice of each character to make them unique? Let’s look at some actual examples.

Matriarch of the family,  Viola Price

Viola is a strong-willed, opinionated  woman and her words reflect that. They gush onto the page in stream of consciousness rush, with a few expletives strewn in like boulders to make her points.

“I have tried my damnedest to like George, be nice, act civilized toward him, but I can’t pretend no more… Janelle brag that he got over six hundred people working under him. I ain’t impressed in the least.

Her estranged husband, Cecil Price

Cecil has a bit of a Texarkana twang.  He says “ain’t,” “thank” instead of think, and “everythang” instead of everything. (This must have been a nightmare for the copy editor.)

I shoulda stayed a little longer. I know I shoulda… Seemed like she wanted me to hurry up and leave. At least that’s my thanking on it. She said no to everythang I asked her.

Their oldest daughter, Paris

Single mom Paris supports her son with her catering business. Her voice is as clean and sophisticated as she can make it.

I also heard I’m a perfectionist. Which I will admit to:  and proud of it. They make it sound like a dirty word. All I have to say is:  don’t hate me because I’m organized.

Their second daughter, Charlotte

Charlotte was born on her mother’s birthday and sounds the most like Viola.

It’s times like this when I wish I hadda went to college. Hell, if I could ever find the time, I’d like to go back to school:  at least take a few classes. Not necessarily for no degree.

Their third daughter, Janelle

Janelle is educated, although a bit lost in her own little world.

Of the three girls in my family, I’m the smallest. I should say, the most fit. I’m the only one who works out,…I’ve been trying to persuade Mama and my sisters — particularly Charlotte’s big butt — to at least try walking. But they’re too lazy.

Their son, Lewis

Lewis had a lot of potential when he was young, but gets sidetracked into a life of crime. For the most part, Lewis speaks in short sentences.

I got a job. But it’s on hold. I’m on disability right now. Don’t nobody in my family believe I got rheumatoid arthritis.

Once you see the patterns, it is easy to recognize which character is speaking in each chapter without them actually being named. This ability is not easy to achieve, and Terry McMillan deserves recognition for her ability to carry it off.

 

Public domain photo via Visualhunt.com

Weaknesses of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

It isn’t a big weakness, but Terry McMillan’s novel comes across at times as a cautionary tale. Everything that can befall a family shows up in the novel at some point:  illness, death, drug addiction, alcohol problems, teen pregnancy, incest, adultery, characters sent to jail, etc. It’s as if McMillan wants you to see how things can go wrong if you make certain choices, and how to avoid those in your own life. That isn’t necessarily a bad goal, but can get wearing over time without a bit of levity or hopefulness. Fortunately, things do perk up at the end as the family members start to turn their lives around.

Discussion

I have to admit that I would never have opened this book if it hadn’t been part of The Bestseller Code 100 challenge. Mostly I was put off by the title, which seemed old-fashioned and a bit lame. After I started reading, however, I was once again reminded how first impressions can be so wrong.  Now I can’t wait to read more of McMillan’s novels.

Why did the computer choose this book as one of the best of the bestsellers? Possibly because there is a strong theme of family and relationships, which was one of the themes mentioned as being important. Also, I’ve noticed many of the novels it selected have been narrated from more than one perspective, or have different voices in different chapters. This one definitely fits that criteria.

Regardless of why the computer chose it,  writers will find it an awesome example of how to develop characterization and realistic dialogue. It is a title well worth examining.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? What drew you to it? Did you like the title?

 

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Author Terry McMillan is known for her strong female characters, specifically African American women in professional and/or matriarchal roles.  If you’ve not read any of her books, I’m willing to bet you are still familiar with them, as many have been made into big-screen or made-for-television movies – Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Disappearing Acts, and A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Strong Matriarchal Voice

As Roberta noted in #BookBeginnings, the first voice we hear is matriarch Viola Price, who quickly establishes herself as a woman with strong opinions and the will to voice them. She doesn’t takes guff from anyone and that includes her estranged husband and her four children. Maybe it’s no accident that none of her children live near her or that her husband has moved out and found a new, younger, less strident woman to live with. Vi is about as subtle as a steamroller.

Even though I didn’t know any African American women when I was growing up, I instantly recognized the voices of a couple of my aunts.  The language Viola uses and her patterns of speech might be different, but her fearless and frank admonitions and advice to her children and extended family are similar to those I heard in my childhood from certain aunts.  If they thought you needed a verbal slap upside the head, they didn’t hesitate to give it to you, whether you had asked for it or not.  Don’t we all have at least one relative that calls it like it is?  I believe this is why McMillan’s characterization of Viola rings so true.  And even though Viola dies partway through the book, her presence is still a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book.

Family Tree

McMillan provides Viola and Cecil Price’s family tree in the print copy of the books (there was not one in the Kindle version, much to my dismay) and, at the beginning, I  definitely referred to this tree often to keep track of all the characters.  Each chapter is presented from the viewpoint of another character, and they are all vivid, memorable, and believable.  Because of this, it doesn’t take long before you recognize each voice right from the first few sentences of each new chapter.

The family tree is our first clue to just how dysfunctional the Price family is.  Almost every member of the family has had multiple marriages and children from those multiple marriages.  As the book proceeds, the Price family members experience a seemingly unending series of crises – teen pregnancies, an abusive step-father, substance abuse, jail sentences, infidelity – and that’s just in the first few chapters!  Each family member does their best to hide these crises from their parents and siblings, presenting the “all is great” facade to the world.  Viola does her best to hold the splintering family together, but she knows she may not survive her next asthma attack.

For a while I found it difficult to believe that so much could happen to one family in such a short time, but then I lost myself in the characters and ceased caring if it was believable or not.  I only wanted to know what would happen next and if they would all come through the flames intact.

Letters from Viola

Even though Viola dies partway through the book, she remains a vital part of the story. I especially liked how McMillan brought Vi’s voice back in the last chapter.  The entire family gathers together at Thanksgiving and they read aloud the letters Vi wrote to her husband and children before her death.  It was an effective way to bring about a reconciliation.  And though the ending might be too neatly wrapped up, as a reader I appreciated the feel-good ending.  I wanted the Price family to have their kumbaya moment and McMillan came through.

I listed in my opening paragraph all the McMillan novels that have been made into movies.  Amazingly enough, I’ve never seen any of those movies, nor read any of her books.  I will be adding all of them to my “must see” and “must read” lists.  That’s how much I enjoyed A Day Late and a Dollar Short.  How about you?  Did you enjoy reading about Viola Price and her family?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: Number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: A peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Man Booker Prize Winner

The White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008.  I wasn’t familiar with this prize, so I did a little research.  Originally, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded each year for the best original novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom, with the intent being to recognize authors and encourage the widest possible readership, thus boosting book sales for the winner.  The prize is awarded to the book rather than the author and in 2014 the scope was widened to include any novel published in the English language. The prize money awarded to Man Booker winners is one of the largest amounts in the world of literary prizes.

Social Commentary

Adiga’s debut novel is a scathing social commentary on life in India in the beginning years of this century.  As Roberta noted in her Writer’s Review, Halwai, the main character, continually refers to the Darkness as a way to illustrate the demeaning and demoralizing existence of most Indians.  Throughout the book, Halwai strives to escape the Darkness and live in the Light, a goal he achieved and which is represented by the multiple chandeliers he has in his apartment in Bangalore.

There were many references to the caste system of India throughout The White Tiger, and since I didn’t know much about the caste system, I did some more research.  The caste system has held Indians within their rigid heirarchical groups for over 3000 years, preventing upward mobility, economic opportunities, and co-mingling of the groups.  India banned caste-based discrimination in their constitution, enacted quotas for hiring in 1950, and expanded those quotas to encompass more caste levels in 1989.  With the technology boom of the early 2000s resulting in the rise of call centers servicing American companies (most based in and around Bangalore), the caste system has become less adhered to by the younger generations.  It is still followed in the more rural areas of India and, as Adiga illustrates so well in The White Tiger, most people in the supposedly more progressive areas of the country, i.e., the large cities, still cling to the beliefs that the castes really do dictate intelligence level, abilities, and career paths, and discrimination on a personal level is still the norm.

The Orphan Master’s Son

As I read The White Tiger, I was continually reminded of one of our earlier novels, The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (another prize winning book).  I was struck by the similarities of the two main characters, Halwai and Pak Jun Do, and also by the similarities of Indian and Korean society.  Both Halwai and Pak Jun Do were nameless as infants and assigned names later in life.  “Jun Do” is the English equivalent to “John Doe” and Pak was a name from the list of 114 Grand Martyrs of the Revolution used for orphaned boys. Hulwai is called “Munna,” which means “boy,” until he goes to school, at which time his teacher calls him Balram Halwai.  Halwai is his caste level and it means “sweet-maker.”

In both books the authors make clear that there is no chance for the lower classes to achieve upward mobility or economic stability.  The masses are nothing more than glorified slaves and their continued existence is dictated solely by the whims of those above them, either the higher caste levels in India (the landlords, the wealthy) or by the government officials (both military and non-military) in Korea.  Most never think to question any order given by someone in a position of authority, never think to question their place in the societal hierarchy, let alone dare to think of being free;  economical freedom, intellectual freedom, social freedom – all are equally unattainable and therefore dangerous to consider.  If you step out of line, not only will you suffer potentially lethal consequences, but so will your immediate and quite possibly your extended family members. This makes it all the more astounding that both Halwai and Pak Jun Do do eventually attain economic success (Halwai) and/or freedom of thought and action (Pak Jun Do), although through unlawful means and at great personal costs.

Self-Examination

Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is a disturbing read, as it is meant to be.  This is not a lighthearted romp, nor is Halwai a lovable rapscallion. As Adiga told in an interview with The GuardianThe White Tiger highlights inequities and indignities of Indian culture and spotlights the dark underbelly of India’s “economic miracle.”

“At a time when India is going through great changes and, with China, is likely to inherit the world from the west, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal injustices of society. That’s what writers like Flaubert, Balzac and Dickens did in the 19th century and, as a result, England and France are better societies. That’s what I’m trying to do – it’s not an attack on the country, it’s about the greater process of self-examination.”

I certainly didn’t enjoy reading The White Tiger, but it did cause me think about some things I had not considered before.  It led me to research the Man Booker Prize, the caste system, and the author himself.  It brought back memories of The Orphan Master’s Son, another disturbing and thought-provoking book.  If nothing else, this 100 Bestsellers Reading Challenge is stretching my brain and my horizons, and those are good things.

What about you?  Did you find The White Tiger to be a stretch from you normal reading choices?  Did you think it was a worthwhile read?

 

 

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan (2000)- Discussion begins October 30, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The White Tiger

Let’s take a look at The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Balram Halwai writes about his rags to riches story as he leaves behind his impoverished Indian village to establish his own taxi business.

Note:  Although Aravind Adiga was only 33 when he published this debut novel, it won the Man Booker Prize in 2008.

Genre

This novel is an excellent example of picaresque fiction. 

A picaresque novel features a main character who is from a low social class and a bit of a rogue (the name comes from the Spanish word picaro for rogue or rascal). He gets by with his wits and often skirts the law or social conventions to achieve his goals. This novel follows the picaresque tradition because it is told in first person, and features plain, realistic language with elements of satire and dark comedy.

The White Tiger is also an epistolary novel. The text is a long letter written by the main character over a series of evenings.

Characters

Balram Halwai is the roguish main character. He grew up in a poor rural village in India. Using his cunning, he learns to drive and becomes a driver/servant for Mr. Ashok and his wife, Pinky Madam in Delhi. Although at first he follows the law, he doesn’t mind breaking with social conventions. For example, he refuses to send a portion of his wages back to his family as expected. Later we learn he is willing to break the law, too.

One feature of a picaresque novel is that the main character doesn’t have much of a character arc. Once a rogue, always a rogue. In this case Halwai’s circumstances change, but he still bends the rules as he sees fit.

Because it is written from Halwai’s perspective, women are kept in the background. Other than his employer’s wife, whom he calls Pinky Madam, the majority of female characters are either family members (who Halwai sees as impeding his progress), or prostitutes. Pinky Madam ends up leaving her husband and thus disappears from the story as well.

Setting

Setting is incredibly important in this novel. Each place Halawi lives in reflects a change in his social status. In general, he moves in a southerly direction, from the village of Laxmangarh in north India, to Delhi in the middle, and finally Bangalore in the south.

To Halwai, the rural village of his birth represents the “Darkness” of hopelessness, poverty, illness, and death. Delhi becomes a place of both “Darkness” and “Light,” as he learns about and tries out new roles. He ends up in Bangalore, where he starts a business and becomes one of the exploiters rather than one of the exploited.  He sees himself as someone “in the Light.”

 

white tiger
Public domain photo via Visualhunt.com

Symbolism/Themes

From the white tiger of the title to the Black Fort above his village, the story is full of symbols. Many are prominent during turning points in the main character’s life.

Near the village where Halwai grew up, there is a structure called the “Black Fort.” As a child he is drawn to it, but is also frightened of it. His mother had been fascinated by it as well,  prior to her death. Once he has the driving job,  Halwai is finally  brave enough to climb into the fort. Looking down upon his village he experiences a step out of the “Darkness.”

Halwai often refers to people as animals. In the beginning, those that exploit the villagers are given animals names. The Stork controls the river, the Wild Boar takes taxes for the agricultural lands, the Raven harasses the goatherds, and the Buffalo extorts those who used the roads (Halwai also resents the water buffalo which provided milk and income for his family).  He calls Mr. Ashok’s brother “Mongoose.”

In Delhi, Halwai calls the other working people the “Rooster Coop” because they fight with one another rather than helping each other out. Like roosters, they peck others to keep them in their place. Halwai refuses to participate and distances himself from them.

Throughout the book, Halwai envisions himself as a white tiger, which represents a rare sort of animal. When he sees a white tiger in a cage at the zoo, he decides he must break free of his life of servitude.

Discussion

Although clever in its construction, this novel leaves me flat.

The first problem is the lack of a character arc. When his circumstances change, Halwai doesn’t become a better person. Instead he becomes slicker and better at manipulating others. You want to root for him, but he is not likeable. Rarely do I want to rewrite a novel, but in this case I wish the main character had simply found a clever way to steal the money. Not as brutal an impact, but perhaps more reasonable for a human being who up to that point seemed like he obeyed the law?

The epistolary format also doesn’t help. Writing the story as a letter in the first person limits how much the reader can see of a character’s world. For example, when he and his brother take their dying father to a hospital and there’s no doctor (because of corruption), we don’t get a clear picture of the emotional impact this has before Halwai is off onto another topic.

Although it is probably peevish on my part, including dialogue in the text that is supposed to be a letter seems jarring and artificial. Who writes dialogue in a letter, even a fake one? Yes, it wouldn’t have worked any other way, but it still annoyed me.

For many, The White Tiger has been highly acclaimed. People have applauded its originality and fresh voice, as well as its setting. It is fast paced and filled with dark humor.  In a lot of ways this novel is as rare as the animal in the title.

Have you read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan (2000)- Discussion begins October 30, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Number 75. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

It is time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: An example of an epistolary novel, main character Balram Halwai writes about his rags to riches story as he leaves behind his impoverished Indian village to establish his own taxi business.

Although Aravind Adiga was only 33 when he published this debut novel, it won the Man Booker Prize in 2008.


Have you read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga? Feel free to add a link to your review here.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan (2000)- Discussion begins October 30, 2017

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