Last Man in Tower – Aravind Adiga – Book Review

LastManInTowerGoodreads blurb: Aravind Adiga’s first novel since his Man Booker Prize-winning best seller “The White Tiger” (“Amazing . . . One of the most powerful books I’ve read in decades” –Deirdre Donahue, “USA Today): ” a stunning, darkly comic story of greed and murder that lays bare the teeming metropolis of Mumbai.

Real estate developer Dharmen Shah’s offer to buy out the residents of Vishram Society–a formerly respectable, now crumbling apartment complex that abuts the infamous Dharavi slums–is more than generous. But one man stands in the way of Shah’s luxury high- rise: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher who will not leave his home in Vishram’s Tower A. Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbors–friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co- conspirators–may stop at nothing to score their payday.

An electrifying, suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation, peopled by brilliantly drawn, unforgettable characters, “Last Man in Tower” exposes the hearts and minds of the everymen and women of a great, booming city–ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows no one.


As the blurb states all mayhem breaks loose when real estate developer Dharmen Shah offers an exorbitant sum of money to all the residents of Vishram Towers in Bombay, but there is just one hurdle that stands between them and the money itself; Masterji, a retired schoolteacher who for no apparently good reason refuses to sell to the builder. The author then takes us through a period of approximately 3-4 months between the time the offer is made and the time it expires and on a journey through the lives of all the residents of Vishram Tower A and their attempts to convince Masterji to accept the builder’s offer.

In his trademark style, Aravind Adiga manages to deliver quite a power-packed punch with his insights into the psyche of the ‘everyday man’; people like you and me with their everyday lives and the struggles, joys, pains, happiness that come with it. While not delving too deep into each and every one of the characters, the author manages to convey just about enough about each of them to ensure that the readers sympathize with their plight and to a large extent even understand the motivations behind their actions. Where the author scores really high though are the ‘grey areas’, the places in the character psyches and motivations that leave the reader unable to decide one way or the other.

Using his trademark style where he lets the events unfold at their own pace in an unhurried manner, the author successfully manages to deliver quite a power-packed punch right at the very end, while the epilogue further manages to reinforce our faith in the author and his belief that ‘life goes on, no matter what.’ While this may put off readers who like fast-paced books and like their action hard, fast and furious, connoisseurs of well written literary fiction will surely lick their lips at the prospect of reading a truly well written book with extremely believable characters stuck in everyday situations.

I personally enjoyed each and every character quite a bit, and especially liked the character of Shanmugam, the left-hand man of Dharmen Shah, the builder. Using him, the author manages to humanize and de-humanize the builder, at the same time, and that is quite an achievement where the author manages to make us think twice about the main antagonist (if he can be called that) in the book.

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.

Between the Assassinations – Aravind Adiga – Book Review


Although the book “Between The Assassinations” by Aravind Adiga had been lying in my bookshelf for more than a few years now, it is only now that I found time and inclination to actually read it, given that I am in the middle of a voracious spell of devouring books by Indian authors in recent times. And it was quite a read.

I opened up the book without any expectations whatsoever having read no reviews or heard anything about the book itself and armed with the knowledge that the author had won the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his other book The White Tiger and this happened to be a blessing in disguise in more than one way. For one I was not burdened by the fact that I had a yardstick to measure this book against the award winning one, given that I have not yet read it, and secondly, the fact that I had absolutely no inkling as to what to expect from this one in terms of the plot or what it dealt with meant that I read it with a completely open mind, and what follows therefore is an honest opinion of the book by itself.

The book is a collection of short stories set in the fictional town of Kittur which per the author lies in coastal Karnataka somewhere between Goa and the rest of Karnataka. With regard to detailing the town itself, the author’s craft reminded me on more than one instance of how the great RK Narayan had detailed the town of Malgudi in a lot of his books. All the stories are set in the period 1984-91 between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and is set on the cusp of the historic liberalization of India. The author deliberately has chosen this time frame and setting to present a mirror to small town India in the 80s well before our country opened itself up to the world and in turn allowed the world as well to open up to India. The setting by itself makes for an interesting choice to write stories with.

Another underlying common theme in all the stories in this book apart from the setting itself is the fact that the main protagonists are everyday men and women who we would encounter in similar small towns even today. Ranging from the middle class bank manager, the daughter of a daily wage laborer, a full time house maid who has to work to eke out a living, a young Muslim boy who does various odd jobs around town, a High School teacher who has pinned his hopes on a favorite student of his, the owner of a garment factory who detests corruption in the Government, these eclectic bunch of people probably still exist in India even today, living similar lives as well.

Yet another underlying theme, which I particularly found interesting was the fact that almost all the stories dealt with the everyday lives of these characters without any fictional embellishments at all. They dealt with troubles, travails, fears, insecurities, anger, frustration and all other base human emotions without getting too fictional or storyish about it. What worked well for me in all these stories was the particularly grim way in which the lives of the protagonists was presented without taking too much literary liberty of embellishing them with unnecessary stuff. At the heart of it, this book is a relatively ‘no nonsense’ approach to story-telling and telling the truth as it was.

And the truth of these everyday men and women in Kittur is far from heartening and at times so grim that the reader actually starts feeling depressed through some of these stories. Aravind Adiga manages to weave human emotions in everyday lives in small town India by cleverly incorporating the settings within these stories. The death of socialism and the gradual rise of capitalism, the clinging on to older middle class values and the caste system by the elders, the class divide between the haves and the have-nots, the vicarious living of one’s life through others, the selfless devotion to ideologies, the dilemma between doing what is required and what is right, these are some of the human conditions that the author highlights through this book.

Another thing which worked really well for me was the fact that the author chose to write short stories about each one of these, which meant that he gave enough importance to each and every one of these without overwhelming the reader with the burden of one single overarching story arc with all of these thoughts.

Do read this book if you enjoy reading about simple human emotions and real life characters with whom you can relate to.


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Name Between the assassinations
Author/s Aravind Adiga
Publisher Picador India
Year published 2008
ISBN 13 9780330450546
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