From the Booker Prize–winning author of The White Tiger, a stunning novel of greed and murder in contemporary Mumbai.
At the heart of Adiga's gripping second novel ("his plots don’t unwind, they surge" —USA Today) are two equally compelling men, poised for a showdown.
Real estate developer Dharmen Shah rose from nothing to create an empire and hopes to seal his legacy with a luxury building named the Shanghai. Larger-than-life Shah is a dangerous man to refuse. But he meets his match in retired schoolteacher Masterji. Shah offers a generous buyout to Masterji and his neighbors in a once respectable, now crumbling apartment building on whose site Shah’s high-rise would be built. They can’t believe their good fortune. Except, that is, for Masterji, who refuses to abandon the building he has long called home.
As the demolition deadline looms, desires mount; neighbors become enemies, and acquaintances turn into conspirators who risk losing their humanity to score their payday. Here is a richly told, suspense-fueled story of ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows none: the new India as only Aravind Adiga could explore—and expose—it.
When Mumbai was still Bombay, the apartment building became the new village, inhabitants growing up and old together, intertwined in one another's rhythms and needs. Tower A of the Vishram Society is one such building both a character and the setting in this highly allegorical yet riveting novel, Adiga's first since winning the Man Booker Prize for The White Tiger. Here, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Communists have lived together for decades, finding recent common ground in their suspicions about the new "modern" single girl in 3B. But when a developer offers each resident an astronomical sum to move out so that he might build a luxury condo, greed threatens to destroy the community. But one holdout, the teacher Mr. Masterji, is determined that knowledge and principle will protect him. Though occasionally overwritten ("The hypodermic needle of the outside world had bent at his epidermis and never penetrated"), Adiga is a master of pacing. The momentum builds as Masterji's neighbors become consumed by money, allowing Adiga to show his characters grappling with circumstances, and enduring difficult changes of heart. Adiga takes a harsh look at Mumbai's new wealth, but his characters are more than archetypes. Though the allure of capitalism has won them over, the inhabitants of Tower A are at the mercy of the rich as much as their neighbor, the teacher, is at the mercy of them.
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I wished I had visited Mumbai to better understand the setting, but the plot about greed and what it can do in people is universal.
...but it's no "White Tiger". That novel is an early front-runner for my favorite of the decade.