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February 24, 2012 8:02 pm
Last Man in Tower, by Aravind Adiga, Atlantic Books, RRP£7.99, 421 pages
Aravind Adiga scooped the 2008 Man Booker Prize with his boisterous debut The White Tiger .
This third offering reprises big themes of greed, injustice and ambition with another set of richly flawed characters.
Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society is squashed between illegal slums and Mumbai’s airport. A developer offers its residents huge sums if they will unanimously sell him their flats, prompting jubilation.
Masterji, a retired teacher, is the only one who chooses not to sell. Each resident in turn begins conspiring against him, which Adiga skilfully escalates from sneers to a comically inept assassination attempt.
The meat of this novel is the residents’ increasingly shrill self-justifications for their own collective greed, but Adiga refuses to allow easy sympathy for any party.
The result is a nuanced and darkly comic novel that probes a small community’s ethics to illuminate wider conflicts of aspiration, dignity and circumstance.
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