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Shantaram: A Novel
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Crime and punishment, passion and loyalty, betrayal and redemption are only a few of the ingredients in Shantaram, a massive, over-the-top, mostly autobiographical novel. Shantaram is the name given Mr. Lindsay, or Linbaba, the larger-than-life hero. It means "man of God's peace," which is what the Indian people know of Lin. What they do not know is that prior to his arrival in Bombay he escaped from an Australian prison where he had begun serving a 19-year sentence. He served two years and leaped over the wall. He was imprisoned for a string of armed robberies peformed to support his heroin addiction, which started when his marriage fell apart and he lost custody of his daughter. All of that is enough for several lifetimes, but for Greg Roberts, that's only the beginning.

He arrives in Bombay with little money, an assumed name, false papers, an untellable past, and no plans for the future. Fortunately, he meets Prabaker right away, a sweet, smiling man who is a street guide. He takes to Lin immediately, eventually introducing him to his home village, where they end up living for six months. When they return to Bombay, they take up residence in a sprawling illegal slum of 25,000 people and Linbaba becomes the resident "doctor." With a prison knowledge of first aid and whatever medicines he can cadge from doing trades with the local Mafia, he sets up a practice and is regarded as heaven-sent by these poor people who have nothing but illness, rat bites, dysentery, and anemia. He also meets Karla, an enigmatic Swiss-American woman, with whom he falls in love. Theirs is a complicated relationship, and Karla?s connections are murky from the outset.

Roberts is not reluctant to wax poetic; in fact, some of his prose is downright embarrassing. Throughought the novel, however, all 944 pages of it, every single sentence rings true. He is a tough guy with a tender heart, one capable of what is judged criminal behavior, but a basically decent, intelligent man who would never intentionally hurt anyone, especially anyone he knew. He is a magnet for trouble, a soldier of fortune, a picaresque hero: the rascal who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. His story is irresistible. Stay tuned for the prequel and the sequel. --Valerie Ryan

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

Customer Reviews:

  • Very engaging - gives food for thought
    This book is well written, using words that make the characters and locations come alive. The insight into the Indian people and their heart is engaging. The spiritual insight and philosophy that is demonstrated and spoken about by the characters gives one pause to think about in relationship to one's daily life.

    At times, I thought that the author's experiences as he related them appeared to be far fetched if true. They do make the tale more interesting.

    With regards to the audio CD, I enjoy the reader. The different voices with their appropriate accents enhances the "reading" (listening) experience. ...more info
  • Brillant, beautiful, interesting and fun
    This book is captivating, brillantly involved. The author tells a remarkable story that brings the reader in, allows the reader intimate knowledge of exactly how it feels to be in Bombay and on the run. Fantastic page turner. Loved It!...more info
  • Blown away by this author's writing and became a fan!
    I am an avid reader of many years, yet was deeply affected by this authour's sensitivity and his ability to be able to beautifully create an image in your mind in a very concise manner. His depth in creating characters in the book was so well done, that people all over the world kept writing to ask about the outcome of certain people , who in the end were fiction, yet they became so real. I have since researched Gregory David Roberts and found speeches by him on video, and also have his website on my desktop. Guess that tells you the impact. That and his own personal life story make him very interesting to follow. I just hope he continues the story in another book. It also inspired me to read more books and information on India and her people. I have also given this book as a gift to friends who I like to see have a good read!!! Also, who cannot like this Aussie!!!!!!! Give it a go, mate!!!!...more info
  • My favorite read for the past five years
    I have recommended this book to all the devoted readers that I care about. It is a commitment to read this book, because of the length. It also helps if you keep a list of character names to refer to so that you don't get confused. Finally, there are many scenes that are not for the faint of heart. That being said,this is a very powerful book that engaged me in a very foreign environment that revealed poerful truths. I loved it!...more info
  • Shantaram
    This is an interesting story, not only written very well...but the author has done a brilliant job of captivating the readers attention. Going into not only words...but helping each of us learn a little of the cultural side of the people & places visited.....well done....hard to put down....more info
  • Great book about Indian culture and insight...
    After many trips to India, I still found this book enlightening about what it's like to live there.

    I loved the juxtaposition of the weathlier lives and poorer lives, as well as the real life story of the author....more info
  • An amazing semi-autbiographical fiction novel!
    One of the few things more amazing than the novel "Shantaram" is the man who wrote it; Gregory David Roberts. I watched a video conference with him and much of the book seems to be taken out of real or similar events that happened to him, particularly the major events in the book (prison escape, jailed in India, working with the Indian mafia, etc.) Leopold's is a real bar in Mumbai as well. I believe what makes this a "novel" are the little details; anecdotes, and exaggeration's, alterations of characters.

    That said, assuming much of what we read here is based on true events that happened to the man is simply a magnificent story of a fascinating life. Here is a man that has felt the full spectrum of life, flirting with death and danger more than I would ever be capable of doing, and has gained a seemingly profound understanding of himself in the process.

    If you are intrigued at all by this book, than it is likely you will enjoy. There is an upcoming film staring Johnny Depp based on the book. I don't see how a movie could possibly do it justice, and the film industry's constant efforts to make works of art more palatable for the masses is a constant source of frustration to me.

    I highly recommend this book (like many others) and do yourself a favor and read it BEFORE the upcoming film comes out!...more info
  • two thirds of this nine-hundred-thirty-three page adventure deserve four stars, or better...
    Seems to me the author did himself and the audiance a disservice by not making this a memoir--and you can be certain of one thing: it would have clearly been one hell of a powerful memoir.

    As it stands, the first two-thirds, as stated, are gripping and believable; the trouble is, for me, when he gets into all the mafia nonsense. Some of the twists and turns are far-fetched and just plain ridiculous (and comes across as scenes right out of the Godfather--a film that is way overrated, by the way.)

    Some, not all, of the philosophizing is a nuisance; and then you've got this mafia head who sort of comes across like a Don Corleone immitation (and that struck me as total B.S.; you've got the gang wars, more B.S.,and so on--and it really wasn't necessary.)

    For the love of me, I don't get why the writer had to turn the incredible ordeal and life he'd lived into this (during last third of the book) screwie soap-opera type of tale. It boggles the mind.

    On the other hand, sadly I do know: pot-boilers (sometimes) sell better than memoirs. It still doesn't lessen the sadness for me, because the book is absolutely brilliant in places and is proof the writer has talent and could have stayed clear of the soap opera shananigans.

    The book deserves an honorable *** & 1/2 stars, only there is no way to do it with this system that amazon has going.

    ...more info
  • shantaram
    Very well written and evocative, shows love and respect for the Indian people and great insight into the appalling inequality they endure and the spirit with which they survive....more info
  • Shantarom Review
    This is the type of book that is difficult to put down. With 933 pages of fine print I usually avoid this type of book because of poor eye sight. I devoured the story with a magnifying glass and it is very well written and easy to follow. The story is quite factual yet written as a novel. While the main character is quite a villain one can't help being on his side all of the way. Wonderful entertainment....more info
  • A story worth telling - by someone else
    I can't deny that Mr Roberts has a story to tell. I just wish it had been written by someone else, someone whose prose style isn't so flowery and cliche-ridden. I can't believe the praise that has been heaped on this book. Have these people ever read a truly well-written novel ? Roberts never uses one word when he can use ten. Everything is described in a cloying, 6th form way, all the characters are one-dimensional. I found it plain unreadable. ...more info
  • amazing account of life in India
    The author paints a vivid picture of life in the slums and around Bombay. His autobiographical novel gives the readers privvy to many private places in the city. Word pictures that beg you to come to India and experience its incredible diversity are on every page. It is a long book but I can honestly say I didn't want it to end. It's been a very long time since I felt that way about any book. I hope Mr. Roberts will present us all with another fine book in the future....more info
  • WOW
    Shantaram was by far the best book I have ever read! It took me to another time and place and I just didn't want to put it down.
    I highly reccommend this book. ...more info
  • Atrociously-written, self-aggrandizing garbage
    My god. What an incredible load of drivel this is. Though there is room in the world for large stories largely told, Gregory David Roberts' self-aggrandazing pseudo-autobiography teems with ludicrously bad prose, characters so flat I'd like to use them to keep water off my bathroom floor, dimwitted philosophy, and self-love. I quite literally had to stop reading from embarassment at the sex scenes ("my body was her chariot and she rode me into the sun"? ye gods), and repeatedly found myself saying, "No, actually", at Roberts' increasingly idiotic turns of simile and metaphor even outside that context.

    Absolute drek....more info
  • Shantarum : 35 cd's of listening to a marvelous yarn
    I found this book utterly fascinating... I listened to all 35 cd's, read by a wonderful actor, with amazing dialects... However, I think he could have used an editor with tighter restrictions.... He really captured the ambience of Bombay, and it's peoples...I would have liked to know how he left it with Karla, Lisa, and, if he ever re-connected with his family of origin.... Did he ever see his Mother, ex-wife, daughter? Did he return to Australia? ...more info
  • should have been half as long
    I started out loving this book, some of the prose was amazing and I marked some passages for later use. After page 150, my "I like this" marks fell sharply away and then disappeared after page 385 ... but the story continued, and continued, and continued. Because the beginning was so good, I tried to finish but gave up around page 426 feeling angry. It is almost as if someone else stepped in to finish the book - perhaps the author had a contract to get to 1,000 pages rather than stop at 500???...more info
    It seems to me that most of the negative reviews here pontificate on the morality of the author and make judgments based on the same. As a person with a rich and colorful life, full of success and failure, and as a human who has their share of mistakes, I look at the author with no sense of moral righteousness. While his prose can tend towards the flowery, I forgive the author for taking creative license with his incredible life story. I loved it.

    The objections I've noted are all based on a "that's not what I would do" sense of morality, and completely miss the point. Not seeing the forest for the trees, if you will.

    I've lived a wonderful life (that fascinates most everyone who knows me well, but pales compared to this story), and can quite comfortably say that this is one of the best stories I have ever read (and I read a lot). If you can't learn SOMETHING from this, you haven't lived or are not capable of self contemplation. Period....more info
  • A Great Read
    This book really captured me. Implausible in part, fantastic in part, absolutely grotty-real in part -- one has the sense that the writer poured a combo of his experiences/research/anecdotal stuff into a BIG pot and stirred well. It ends up in a mildly predictably fashion, but then... it's a novel! A very engaging book. ...more info
  • Over the top fantasy.
    No question about it, Shantaram is a good story. It comes complete with good guys, bad guys, heroes and thugs. Lin, of course, is the requisite superhero, albeit a bit too hard to believe.

    If the story is indeed autobiographical, it is wildly embellished. If the story is fantasy, it is still over the top. At the end, I still couldn't decide which is a more apt description - which may be the most compelling reason to recommend it. ...more info
  • Good 'whiteman among the natives' story.
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is quite a good book. It's sort of a new-age rendition of Papillon set in Mumbai/Bombay instead of South America. There are also a good deal of similarities with the style of stories that are about white men coming to benighted non-white societies and changing them for the better.

    The story is based on the true life experiences of Roberts. Nobody knows exactly how much is truth and how much is fiction.

    Although Roberts has great respect for India and Indians, he cannot escape the traditional "White man saves poor natives from themselves" theme that all stories about white men living among non-white cultures share.

    White Australian Lin, the Roberts stand-in, is capable at everything from martial arts to medicine to withstanding torture and comes across as almost a superhero. Most Indians and other Asians in Shantaram come across as lovable goofy 'babu' like Prabaker, or mysterious 'wise man' stereotypes like Khader Khan. All Asians are constantly smoking hashish in practically every scene. To be fair, so is the white hero. Roberts has Lin fall in love with a white European woman instead of an Indian one, like Tarzan & Jane or Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist.

    The descriptions of Mumbai/Bombay are vivid and fascinating. One can see the streets of this ancient, teeming city as one reads. I'd never really had an urge to visit India until I read this book, and now I would love to go.

    While Shantaram would like to think of itself as having a new level of consciousness for non-white cultures, it's still Tarzan or A Man Called Horse at heart. Great read, though!
    ...more info
  • A worthy world to read yourself into. Crime/poverty/evil/redemption/shame
    I was surprised to enjoy myself being immersed in this world in this book. I picked it up because I was interested in the way the book came to be. I couldn't put it down because of the story.

    The book is written in a perfectly frail first-person, taking the reader up with bouyant self-satisfaction when the narrator is trying to overcome inner weakness, and contemplative effacing insight when the narrator is peaceful with himself, and most strong. But the real gems in this book are the other characters, whom we come to love and respect or loath and suspect not because the narrator told us how to feel, but how they unfold in his life. While many of these characters are more lovable than our narrator, one has to come to love him in the end, for seeing, feeling and writing this constellation of characters for us. And along the way the narrator shows, without telling, how a path to redemption can be sick and twisted, unworthy, random, and in the end perhaps very unjust, but by that time we, even more so than our narrator, have come to question justice, fate, evil to accomplish good and good that enables evil. ...more info
  • The frustrating tale of an anti-hero who does not learn
    The first third of Shantaram was - despite some lengths - compelling. I developed sympathy for the protagonist and due to severeal hints I expected him to become a better man in the course of all those 1000+ pages. But then, after around 400 pages the story takes a strange turn and develops into some senseless, violence ridden tale. Lin starts to spend his time with characters you could not care less about and puts himself himself deeper and deeper into senseless, violent, dumb and ultimately boring situations. Actually the story's dramatic demise begins with Lin's involvement with the Mafia. I just read on because I could not believe that he would not learn and get out of this crap, but become more and more detached from his own emotions. Instead of facing his own demons he runs away from them by either taking heroin or putting himself in life threatening situations. One after the other after the other. YAWN. The protagonist develops into an annoying jerk and one seriously starts to question his intelligence. No personal development to the better. None at all. Honestly, the second half of the book is a total waste of time. I wish Roberts had simply written his autobiography. ...more info
  • Shantaram- a novel by Gregory David Roberts
    This book was recommended by a friend who was reading it. It is absolutely a must read book. I felt as though I learned more about life in India in the first fifty pages than I knew in my life so far (I don't get out much.)It felt as if I was reading an autobiography, and after reading about the authors life, that feeling may not be far from the truth. The characters are well developed,the plot lines are numerous without getting tangled. The revelations about Australian and Indian prisons and the Indian mob are complex in their textures. I don't want to give anything away, for though there are a lot of pages, I looked forward to each one....more info
  • Magnificent Storytelling
    This book is absolutely fantastic. At over 900 pages it's daunting, but pulled me in from page one. It's a story about love, crime and life in Bombay. The kind of story that makes me ache to finish it, and feel loss when I do....more info
  • A Seductively Dangerous Book
    In many ways Roberts is an amazing writer. He draws compelling characters, creates a wonderful sense of space, and uses language colorfully. However, Shantaram, ultimately goes nowhere and is unsatisfying. It is a book about an addict. A man who is addicted to heroin, to crime, to ideas and to his inflated sense of self importance.
    Shantaram is a novel the same way "A Million Little Pieces". It's autobiographical with poetic license.
    A heroin addict, turned criminal, busts out of a maximum security jail in Australia, and with a forged passport, winds up in Bombay. He assumes the name Lin, given to him by the first guide he meets, and has many of the personal adventures described on the book jacket. In between the adventures, Lin preaches often cryptically sounding ideas, which are more glib than pithy -- there is no art without forgiveness, fanaticism is the opposite of love, etc. etc.
    Ultimately, for all his musings, Lin learns nothing. He simply transfers one addiction for another. He was constantly betrayed by men in the Indian mafia, and you are led to believe that maybe he'll break away, but, no. After fighting in one war to aid a man who betrayed him in every way, he will ultimately fight in another for the same man, because he owed his life (which would never have been at risk in the first place, had he not gone to war for his Don, Khader) to a henchman.
    When appalled at people's distaste for his descriptions of his compatriots as honorable men, Lin will glibly say that there's a difference between honor and virtue. Men who are arsonists, forgers (helping wanted men to travel), smugglers, who sacrifice their friends to put police off their trails are neither honorable, nor virtuous. They are thugs,who will turn on you, if need be. They turned on Lin and left him in prison, knowing they could have gotten him out, and knowing that he was supposed to be beaten to death. Yet the fact that he survived made him tougher and more valuable.
    Roberts should find a more interesting subject than himself to write about. He certainly has the skill to do so. I hope he has the interest.
    ...more info
  • Brilliant!
    Wow....what a fantastic read! This book is not only a literary masterpiece, it has a great story to go with it. A great debut novel from Gregory David Roberts which makes you want to catch the next plane to Bombay and experience the adventure yourself....more info
  • Shantaram
    An incredible read...a life-changing journey...I could not put this book down. Gregory David Roberts wrapped me in his story and I traveled with him to the far corners of man's endurance. ...more info