Last Man in Tower, By Aravind Adiga

I want you to sell me a storey ...

Wealthy, powerful property developer Dharmen Shah wants to build a new block of luxury apartments in Mumbai; to do that, he has to demolish an ageing tower block full of ageing residents. None of the residents is rich; to get them to move, Shah offers them life-changing amounts of money. The majority are ready to bite his hand off, but four people demur. The tower is a co-operative, so the offer can't be accepted unless the residents are unanimous: pressure slowly builds on the resisters to accept, until finally only one man, the retired schoolteacher Masterji, holds out ....

Many of the reviews I've seen for this liken Aravind Adiga's storytelling style to Dickens, and there are some resemblances: the same sense of a rich, complex, buzzing society in the throes of change, the large cast of colourful characters, the vivid evocation of a city at both the wealthy and the down-and-dirty ends. But the construction of the story has little in common with Dickens's ramshackle, coincidence-strewn plotting: it's character-driven, not plot-driven. And Adiga's attitude to his characters is more nuanced and more generous – unlike Dickens's clearly labelled goodies and baddies, here every character has a point of view. The story has more in common with Dürrenmatt's play The Visit, with its sense of the gradual, inexorable isolation of one character within a community. A big, fat, juicy, memorable read.

Comments