"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 by Gregory David Roberts, 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.
About Gregory David RobertsSee more books from this Author
...an elegantly written, page-turning blockbuster by Australian newcomer Roberts...Roberts is a sure storyteller, capable of passages of precise beauty, and if his tale sometimes threatens to sprawl out of bounds and collapse under its own bookish, poetic weight, he draws its elements together at just the right moment.Read Full Review of Shantaram | See more reviews from Kirkus
If there are occasional passages that would make the very angels of purple prose weep, there are also images, plots, characters, philosophical dialogues and mysteries that more than compensate for the novel's flaws. A sensational read...Read Full Review of Shantaram | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly
But it seems unsporting to begrudge Roberts the license to thrill while having such a good time -- and "Shantaram," mangrove-scented prose and all, is nothing if not entertaining. Sometimes a big story is its own best reward. And there's always the next installment.Read Full Review of Shantaram | See more reviews from NY Times
Although Shantaram gives too much of itself, its redemption lies in its bleeding-heart love letter to a Bombay few ever see.Read Full Review of Shantaram
Laconic humour, sharp wit and explicit Indian obscenities characterise the dialogue. Also apparent is an endearing fondness for the characters of Lin's Bombay: gangsters, prostitutes, prisoners, slum dwellers, petty criminals, gently debauched and decadent Westerners.Read Full Review of Shantaram
Though Roberts occasionally dabbles in melodrama in this 933-page epic, his passion for India and its people, coupled with inspired storytelling, more than compensate.Read Full Review of Shantaram
A spiritually enlightened Aussie fugitive (really, is there any other kind?), he takes refuge in the seedy slums of Bombay, where massive fires and cholera epidemics among the 11 million are as common as the yearly monsoon rains. With such a backdrop, this tale knows no boundaries, blooming with each successive page.Read Full Review of Shantaram
Part travelogue, part love letter, part autobiography, Shantaram is a vivid, entertaining but slightly grandiose tale of Lin, an ex-junkie and convicted robber...Despite occasional flubs, much is covered gracefully...Although Shantaram gives too much of itself, its redemption lies in its bleeding-heart love letter to a Bombay few ever see.Read Full Review of Shantaram
It is a totally gripping story and though the narrative can be gratuitously sentimental and overly florid, there is no denying its force. It is a superb insight into India and Indianness, full of the clarity of outsider-insider. But still to empathise with a violent criminal is confusing.Read Full Review of Shantaram
That is it. I've given it another 100 pages and have gone beyond the magical 1/3 limit. This clearly isn't working. For the first time in a very, very, very long time I decide to put the book back on the shelves. Unfinished...A quick calculation tells me the book contains about 300,000 words. Even half of that would have been on the rich side.Read Full Review of Shantaram
The story of Shantaram is a story of adventure and daring, a fictionalized account of the life of author Gregory David Roberts...Shantaram is not just a book; it is a sojourn, a spiritual journey into life that shows that even the most complex and powerful systems have at their core a simple and beautiful pattern.Read Full Review of Shantaram
The one novel that I would want with me on a desert island would be...Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It is an adventure–packed novel set in India and based on the true-life experiences of an escaped Australian convict (roman-a-clef).Read Full Review of Shantaram
That said, Lin has an amazing capacity to meet people, befriend them, take risks, enjoy life, and live it to its fullest...The details in this book are amazing...so if you are in the mood to really get involved in a long story where you'll know everything that is going on in minute detail this book is for you!Read Full Review of Shantaram
The gorgeous language, undoubtedly, is the biggest strength of the book. Potent, lyrical, richly philosophical, the prose resonates with one on all the highs and lows of the multi-faceted plot.Read Full Review of Shantaram
Once I finished this book, I became a temporary widow whilst my partner read it and finished the 900 pages even more quickly than I did and he is not usually an avid reader!Read Full Review of Shantaram
...I am so delighted to say, that I was blown away by the book. Influenced by real life events in the life of the author, is an amazing read...It was such a voluminous book, and yet I just wanted it to go on and on. The narrative keeps you engaged and wanting for more until the very last line.Read Full Review of Shantaram
For me, the key feature of this book was how often a phrase or paragraph made me pause, look up and think “that’s so true, even though I’ve never thought to or known how to articulate it”.Read Full Review of Shantaram
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Rated the book as 1.5 out of 5