Self-made Mumbai real estate mogul Dharmen Shah is determined to build his iconic structure, the Shanghai, a “super-luxury” residential skyscraper, named to reflect his admiration for “all the will power in the world” he associates with the rising global power of the Chinese. In order to achieve his career dream, he must first buy out the owners of the Vishram Society; Tower B falls quickly enough, but Tower A is a much greater challenge because of one man’s refusal to sell. Masterji, a 61-year-old retired teacher who recently lost his wife, feels the presence of almost four decades of his life within the walls of the aging building and will never surrender his memories. His neighbors succumb – some less willingly than others – to Shah’s promised windfall of 250% over market value for their tiny spaces, until Masterji is indeed the ‘last man in tower.’
I don’t know what went wrong for me with this novel … certainly it has all the elements of a great (listening) read. The engaging, multi-voiced Sam Dastor narrates Aravind Adiga‘s prizewinning prose, so precisely atmospheric as to transport readers into the dark halls of Tower A. Having captured the bustling streets of a fast-transforming Delhi in his unforgettable 2008 Booker Prized novel, The White Tiger, Adiga moves to a less-than-modern apartment building that stands in the path of sprawling urban (so-called) progress in teeming Mumbai. His characters come alive, his observations of humanity (and inhumanity, depending on perspective) are chilling, his social and political commentaries are scathingly accurate. And yet …
The age-old battle of power vs. principles goes on (and on and on) for 400 pages; ultimately, the plotting, bullying, betrayals offer few new surprises. Even as Shah’s October 5 deadline to Tower A residents approaches (promising an end must be near), a multi-chapter Epilogue looms … and by the time you finally turn that last page, vacating the Tower proves to be a welcome escape.
Published: 2011 (United States)