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Last Man in Tower Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 20, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Epic. . . Adiga capture[s] the vicious underbelly of modern-day real estate in India’s maximum city. Even more so, he taps into the lives and minds of India’s growing middle class. They inhabit the sphere between the city’s slums and, say, the world’s first billion-dollar home recently built in Bombay, with more square footage than the Palace of Versailles.  Like the United States more than a half a century earlier, India is in its ascension, and all the materialism and belligerence about who might be getting left behind is a perfect echo of our Cold War era. The Indians of Adiga’s book yearn for material stability. What that means, how much one really needs to be secure, is at the heart of the story. For the defiant Masterji, [what it means] is the dangerous desire of wanting nothing other than to die in the place where his family’s memories reside.”
—Meera Subramanian, Orion Magazine
“Vivid. . . A novel written by a Man Booker prize winner [comes with] high expectations, [and] Adiga’s latest Last Man in Tower, does not disappoint. He skillfully builds the backdrop for his story. With few words, he sets the scene of poverty and filth in the slums in sharp contrast to the newfound riches made by some in Mumbai, contrasting the new India and its bright technological future with the last remnants of the British Raj. . . . Graphic and colorful . . . thought-provoking and intense.”
—Christine Morris Campbell, The Decatur Daily 
“In the rapidly expanding city of Mumbai, where new buildings sprout like weeds, the construction business isn’t just a front for illegal activity, it’s a raison d’être. When a less-than-ethical developer tries to lure, and later coerce, a community of long-standing tenants out of their apartment complex, it is only the widowed schoolteacher of 3A who continues to rebuff him. In this struggle, Adiga—the author of the Man Booker-winning The White Tiger—maps out in luminous prose India’s ambivalence toward its accelerated growth, while creating an engaging protagonist in the stubborn resident: a man whose ambition and independence have been tempered with an understanding of the important, if almost imperceptible, difference between development and progress. A-”
—Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly

“Aravind Adiga, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The White Tiger, brings readers another look at an India at once simple and complex, as old as time and brand new. . . . Adiga has written the story of a New India; one rife with greed and opportunism, underpinned by the daily struggle of millions in the lower classes. This funny and poignant story is multidimensional, layered with many engaging stories and characters, with Masterji as the hero. He is neither Gandhi nor Christ but an unmistakable, irresistible symbol of integrity and quiet perseverance.”
  —Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times

“It sounds far too clinical to say that Aravind Adiga writes about the human condition. He does, but, like any good novelist, Adiga’s story lingers because it nestles in the heart and the head. In Last Man in Tower, his new novel about the perils of gentrification in a Mumbai neighborhood, the plot turns on a developer’s generous offer to convince apartment residents to leave their building so that he can build a luxury tower in its place. The book mines the tricky terrain of the bittersweet and black humor, always teasing out just enough goodness to allow readers a glimmer of hope for humanity. Adiga won the Booker for his debut, The White Tiger, and his new novel shows no signs of a sophomore slump. Last Man in Tower glides along with a sprawling cast of characters, including the teeming city of Mumbai itself. . . . With wit and observation, Adiga gives readers a well-rounded portrait of Mumbai in all of its teeming, bleating, inefficient glory. In one delightful aside, Adiga notes the transition beyond middle age with a zinger of a question: ‘What would he do with his remaining time—the cigarette stub of years left to a man already in his 60s?’ . . . Adiga never settles for the grand epiphany or the tidy conclusion. In a line worthy of John Irving, Adiga writes: ‘A man’s past keeps growing, even when his future has come to a full stop.’”
—Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor

“First-rate. If you loved the movie Slumdog Millionaire, you will inhale the novel Last Man in Tower. Adiga’s second novel is even better than the superb White Tiger.  You simply do not realize how anemic most contemporary fiction is until you read Adiga's muscular prose. His plots don't unwind, they surge. [Last Man] tells the story of a small apartment building and its owner occupants, a collection of middle-class Indians—Hindu, Muslim, Catholic. There is love, dislike, bickering, resentment. Most of all, there are genuine human connections. Trouble begins when a real estate mogul decides to build a luxury high-rise where the building currently stands, offer[ing] residents 250 times what their dinky little apartments are worth. The result is chaos . . . life-long friends turn on each other. Money—even the possibility of it—changes everything. What makes [Last Man in Tower] so superb is the way Adiga balances the micro plot—will Masterji agree to sell?—with the macro: How Mumbai is changing in profound, often disturbing ways. Most of all, Last Man in Tower asks the eternal questions: What is right, what is wrong, what do we owe each other, what do we owe ourselves? Just brilliant.”
—Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

“What happens to a man who is not for sale in a society where everyone else has his price? That is the subject of Adiga’s adroit, ruthless and sobering novel. Masterji is sequentially betrayed by neighbors, clergy, friends, lawyers, journalists and even his own grasping son as the reader roots for some deus ex machina to save him. Adiga, who earned the Man Booker prize for White Tiger, peppers his universally relevant tour de force with brilliant touches, multiple ironies and an indictment of our nature.”
—Sheila Anne Feeney, The Star Ledger

“When does the heartfelt convictions of one solitary man negate the jointly held consensus of the rest of any civic society? That is the question posed at the center of Aravind Adiga’s audacious new novel, an impressive and propulsive examination of the struggle for a slice of prime Mumbai real estate. It is a worthy follow-up to Adiga’s Booker Prize novel, White Tiger, as he goes back to the well to explore the changing face of a rapidly growing India. . . . Whether the reader sympathizes with Masterji—who stands in the way of his neighbors’ most audacious dreams, and whose integrity and incorruptibility borders on narcissims—may be equivalent to, say, how each of us felt with the Ralph Nader spoiler in the Bush-Gore election. Was he an honorable man to have taken a stand? Or was he simply an egoist? There is a grudging admiration for Masterji’s stand, mixed with an impatience and frustration at how this high-principled man stubbornly torpedoes the will of the majority. . . . A Dickensian quality pervades this ambitious novel, which fearlessly tackles electrifying themes: what price growth? Will good people risk their humanity when faced with a chance to score a big payday? When does the will of a man who foregoes monetary gain resemble selfishness as opposed to virtue? And who can we trust to stand by us when we take a lone stance? This book of contrasts—between a man of finance and a man of virtue (although, of course, it is not as simple as that) . . . between wealth and squalor . . . between the old and the new is a tour de force. And it is certain to add to Aravind Adiga’s already sterling reputation.”
 —Jill I. Shtulman, Mostly Fiction Book Reviews 
“We humans are an optimistic lot. We want to believe that things will get better. . . . What would we do if just one old man kept us from fulfilling these dreams? This is the question that dogs the residents of rundown Vishram Society Tower A in Last Man in Tower, Aravind Adiga’s follow up to his Booker Prize winning debut novel, The White Tiger. . . . In his earlier works Adiga’s tender attention to the frustrations, yearning and anger of a cycle-cart puller, train station porter, and chauffeur lifted away the dehumanizing mask of vocation and poverty to reveal familiar vulnerabilities and aspirations. Now Adiga’s shrewd empathy extends to middle-class characters like the building’s secretary, and African born ‘nothing-man,’ who plans to use his windfall to move somewhere with a view of migrating flamingos. . . . Adiga examines cruelty and ugliness to find the trampled shreds of virtue and humanity beneath. His brilliance comes from showing good and bad hopelessly mixed together like, ‘water, the colour of Assam tea, on which floated rubbish and blazing light.’ After all—and in spite of our collective penchant for optimism—the same rubbish is piling up everywhere and there may not be much more we can do than appreciate the blazing light.”
 —Erin Gilbert, The Rumpus.net 
“Adiga, author of the highly acclaimed White Tiger, returns with this morality tale about events at a respectable, solidly middle-class building in Mumbai. The veneer of respectability and hard-earned bonhomie falls away after the residents—Hindu, Christian, and Muslim—are offered a windfall by an unscrupulous real estate developer who wants them to move. It is a credit to the author that the reader manages to keep...

About the Author

Aravind Adiga is the author of The White Tiger, which was awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize, and a collection of stories, Between the Assassinations. He was born in India and attended Columbia and Oxford universities. He is a former correspondent for Time magazine whose work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Sunday Times (London), and the Financial Times, among other publications. He lives in India.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307594092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307594099
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,202,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When does the heartfelt convictions of one solitary man negate the jointly held consensus of the rest of any civic society?

That is the question posed at the center of Aravind Adiga's audacious new novel, an impressive and propulsive examination of the struggle for a slice of prime Mumbai real estate. It is a worthy follow-up to Adiga's Booker Prize novel, White Tiger, as he goes back to the well to explore the changing face of a rapidly growing India.

Adiga pits two flawed men against each other: The first is Dharmen Shah, a burly and self-made real estate mogul who is the "master of things seen and things unseen." Through his left-hand man, the shady Shananmugham, he offers each resident of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society the highest price ever paid for a redevelopment project in the suburb of Vakola.

Just about every resident jumps at the chance to sell - the anxious Ibrahim Kudwa, an Internet-store owner and the only observant Muslim in the neighborly society; social worker Georgina Rego who loathes amoral redevelopers but wants to trump her wealthy sister; Sengeeta Puri, who cares for her son afflicted with Down's Syndrome;Ramesh Ajwani, an ambitious real-estate broker and more.

Only one resident holds out: Masterji, a retired school teacher who lives alone after the recent death of his wife and the death of his daughter. Only here, at Vishram, can he cling to his memories and so he refuses to sell, even when the pot is sweetened...even when he is threatened emotionally and physically. Masterji is the one immutable roadblock between Shah and his legacy.
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Format: Hardcover
I was actually waiting for the Last Man in Tower. After all, The White Tiger was a fantastically written book with a fast paced narration, highlighting the pitfalls of the current system in a simplistic way. When I picked up the hardbound version from the local library, I had no clue as to what the book was based on. I had carefully avoided any reviews of the book to experience the joy of reading the book first hand.

The last man in tower is a simple tale of the travails and journey of a middle class community. Though all the families living in Vishram Society have their own share of happiness and pitfalls, they are drawn together by that one factor, the one factor that can bring together people from different classes of society - money. Mr. Shah, a local builder, makes a fair minded offer to each and every resident of the housing society to buy out their land, and to establish in its place a luxurious residential complex of epic proportions. Mr. Shah is generous enough to offer a price that is well above the current market price of the property. But, his ambition is hampered by a solitary old man, Masterji, who refuses to budge to the financial clout of the builder. It is not the way the builder deals with Masterji that makes the book an interesting read, but it is the way Masterji deals with his neighbors with whom he had spent a significant portion of his life, that makes the book a very compelling read. New found money opens a lot of new opportunities, and when a middle class person is offered never-before-seen kind of sum, it brings to the fore, the inner demon that has been masked in him. The book goes to show that such a person can go to any lengths to achieve his dream.
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2 Comments 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The "Tower" is Tower A in the housing complex known as the Vishram Society. It has two Towers, "A" and "B". Tower "B" was seven-storey high and was in good condition, populated by young executives. "A" had six, run down and occupied by poor families with a few units rented out. This was a story about a powerful developer called Shah who wanted to purchase the two towers for re-development. There was no trouble from Tower "B". The value of Tower "A" was between 8,000 to 12,000 rupees per square foot. Shah made an offer of 19,000 rupees om 13 May and gave the occupants until 3 October to accept, making clear that he would not extend the deadline even for a minute. The owners were delirious with joy, but four resisted. One by one succumbed, Mr Pinto, a good friend of Yogesh Murty (known as "Masterji") gave up after he was threatened with physical harm by a lone hired hand. In the end, only Masterji stood in the way of Shah. This is not a spoiler as it would become clear a quarter way into the novel that Masterji would be the lone opposition. Once the reader picks up this book it would be near impossible to put it down to find out how it ended, but this is not a thriller. The strength and beauty of this novel is far greater and deeper than a thriller.

Aravind writes in a simple, clear prose, reflective of the lives he describes in his story and yet he creates beauty through his insight into human nature. Shah describes his own vile self as a climber, "a lizard who climbs up walls that do not belong to him." Guarav, son of Masterji only calls his father when "he smells money on me.
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