Last Man In Tower by Aravind Adiga

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Last Man In Tower by Aravind Adiga

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: The second novel from Man Booker-winning Adiga is based in Mumbai and pits residents of an apartment block against a developer and each other. Strong story-telling and an exploration of 'progress' and tradition.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 560 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848875166

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Following a Man Booker-winning book like The White Tiger is always going to be a daunting challenge for any writer, let alone one when that book was the author's first novel. In 'Last Man in Tower' Adiga perhaps sensibly turns to a proven structure that allows his story-telling skills to flourish. Gone are clever structural ideas, like 'The White Tiger's' letter format and instead we get a straightforward engaging story set in modern-day Mumbai where a rich builder is seeking to force residents of an old apartment block to sell their flats to enable redevelopment.

Adiga has a clear group of people - the diverse residents of the apartment block; an outside agent to force change - the property magnate Dharmen Shah; and a time span that focuses the decision - with the offer needing to be accepted before the oncoming monsoon rains. The diversity of the residents and their varying willingness to accept the generous payouts of the builder create a perfect environment for a good story.

Some residents are in favour of taking the money, others have more commitment to the memories that the building offers for them and gradually, by hook or by crook the residents argue and come around to the builder's way of thinking, albeit with a little help sometimes. All that is except for a retired teacher whose reaction to the pressures of his fellow residents and the builder merely encourage a more intransigent position until he is the only one holding out. But without his agreement, everyone will lose out on the deal.

It's a lovely piece of story-telling that pits rich against poor, the past against progress and corruption against standing up for what you believe in. Loyalties are questioned and greed is pitted against loyalty and reputation.

Adiga manages to give a good feeling of the poorer areas of Mumbai without being overly descriptive. Much of the story progresses through dialogue and the residents of the apartment block are all clearly portrayed to such an extent that the reader wants most of them to come out on top - but of course, only one side can win in the end.

It's a very entertaining book, possibly more so than even 'The White Tiger' in my view. There's still evidence of the wry humour and absurdities of life that were in his first book, and Adiga's style is light and highly readable. Definitely a recommended read.

If you haven't yet read Adiga's The White Tiger then you will want to after reading this book, while if you are looking for more Mumbai-based fiction, then The Blue Notebook by James A Levine comes recommended. We also enjoyed Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga.

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