Book review: Last man in tower

If you have read a few of Indian writer Aravind Adiga’s books, his latest novel ‘Last Man in Tower’ is not going to be much of a surprise.

The 2008 Man Booker Prize winner’s third novel spots many similarities used in his last two books. (Click here for my review of his second novel ‘Between the assassinations’)

Poverty remains as the central topic of interest. Set in the rapidly developing Indian city of Mumbai, ‘Last Man in Tower’ narrates the dark side of development in India, a tale that sounds all too familiar in most developing countries where bits of history are forcefully uprooted or destroyed to give way to tall shiny skyscrapers.

At times, it almost felt like Adiga was casting stereotypes about certain groups of people. The rich is almost always represented by an overweight, cruel and ruthless businessman.

Moreover the storyline also stays pretty predictable and is not much of a breakthrough from previous books.

Yet there are still merit points that helped salvaged the book

Adiga’s penchant for describing humanity in a warped manner does in a fascinating way bring to light the contortions and fragility of human relations once driven by money.

“Vishram Society had retained mementoes, over forty-eight years, of all those who had lived in it; each resident had left a physical record of himself here…” Adiga wrote. “If you knew how to read Vishram’s walls, you would find them covered with handprints. These prints were permanent, but they could move; a person’s record was alterable.”

Vishram Society comprised two buildings located in the slum district of Vakola and they are co-operative housing societies, a form of housing arrangement that gives occupant shared legal rights to the estate.When a tremendously lucrative offer was dangled in front of its residents for the run-down apartment, people who have been neighbours for decades began to turn against one another in bid to get everyone to sell their apartments

“But Masterji… understand why people are doing this. There is so much anguish in the building over your strange actions. You say you’ll sign, then you go to see your son, and say you won’t sign,” tenant Ibrahim said to Masterji, the only occupant left in Vishram who refused to cede rights to his house.

As the deadline for the acquisition offer by the builder drew closer, animosity amongst old-time neighbours intensified against Masterji.

And when it reached a point of frantic desperation, the ‘black snake of Vishram’ was let loose and tragedy occurred that chilled me to the bones.Adiga’s cynical tone was omnipresent in the whole book as he vividly described individual characters and their motivations during their scramble for the pot of gold.

That added different dimensions and perspectives about ordinary citizens, who are all too human, acting out of their own interests in a dog-eat-dog world.

With such negativity, I lapped up the last few words in the book feeling rather depressed and skeptical of our capitalistic society.

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3 thoughts on “Book review: Last man in tower

  1. if you want a sense of non fictional Mumbai, I recommend reading Maximum City. It’s a series of pieces written by a man who was born in the city but lived for many years in USA. The book is a reflection of his thoughts on returning, with his family, to live in Mumbai. Some of the essays are hilarious – others make you despair.

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