Adiga nails the culture of corruption. How exciting to watch a writer come into his own, surpassing the achievement of his...

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LAST MAN IN TOWER

Two strong-willed men, a developer and a holdout, propel this gripping second novel about real estate, greed and community in Mumbai (Bombay), India; Adiga won the Man Booker prize for his debut (The White Tiger, 2008).

There’s a building in Mumbai we get to know as well as the two protagonists. Vishram Society Tower A is an unremarkable six-story structure a stone’s throw from the Vakola slums. Water supply is poor. Pests necessitate visits from the “seven-kinds-of-vermin” man. Still, the building has class. The residents of this co-op are middle-class professionals, respectable people typified by Yogesh Murthy, known as Masterji, the 61-year-old retired physics teacher and recent widower. Mr. Shah is the far from respectable but hugely successful builder. His is a rags-to-riches story; starting with smuggling and slum clearance, he’s now at the top of the heap. Vishram’s two towers’ proximity to the financial center attract his attention. They must be demolished to make way for his magnificent new project. Shah’s buyout offer is generous, but it comes with a strict deadline; acceptance must be unanimous. There are four no votes. Masterji votes no as an act of solidarity with his dear friends the Pintos, an old married couple. Then they’re threatened, and suddenly Masterji is the lone holdout. Stubborn and irascible, he is that rare individual who has no price; he wants nothing. Shah could have his enforcer cripple or kill him, but he wants the building’s gossipy denizens, by now frantic for the money, to do the dirty work. With great skill, Adiga spotlights the slippery slope, as the unthinkable becomes the thinkable and finally the doable. Really, what choice do his neighbors have? The author sets us up for the kill while placing it in context: the riotous sights, sounds and smells of Mumbai.

Adiga nails the culture of corruption. How exciting to watch a writer come into his own, surpassing the achievement of his first novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-59409-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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