Friday, April 13, 2012
Last Man Standing
This is a new novel by the Man Booker prize winner, Aravind Adiga, and it's no wonder he's an award winning author. Though it took a while to get into the book, by the end I had trouble putting it down. The story is about what happens when a manipulative, ruthless real estate developer in Mumbai offers the lower middle class residents of an old housing cooperative a large windfall if they will vacate their residences so he can redevelop the site. At the start several residents are unwilling to accept his offer but they are all eventually won over (or bribed) except one, a retired school teacher. The teacher is a recent widower who has a strained relationship with his only son (a daughter died at a young age in a train accident which in parts influences his behaviour). Initially he refuses the offer in solidarity with an old couple who have been his friends for decades (in fact he has eaten every meal at their house since his wife died). The other couple is eventually intimidated into selling, but this only makes the school teacher more stubborn. The canny real estate developer goads the other residents into pressuring the teacher to change his mind, with chilling results. This is truly a tale in how evil ordinary folks can become when motivated by greed and the selfish desire to improve their lot in life.