Book Review- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Friendship is like a kind of algebra test that nobody passes.

Hello everyone! I present to you another book and this time it’s Shantaram! It’s a 912 page long saga about 8 years of a criminal-turned-doctor and smuggler. So as the book itself is huge, the review will be just so like it. And this review will be full of quotes that I love. And believe me it was the most difficult of all the tasks to select only a few quotes among the 40 odd quotes I found.

Jealousy, like the flawed love, that bears it, has no respect for time or space or wisely reasoned argument. Jealously can raise the dead with a single, spiteful taunt, or hate a perfect stranger for nothing more than the sound of his name.

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BOOK COVER BLURB

In the early 80’s, Gregory David Roberts, an armed robber and heroin addict, escaped from an Australian prison to India, where he lived in a Bombay slum. There, he established a free health clinic and also joined the mafia, working worked as a money launderer, forger and street soldier. He found time to learn Hindi and Marathi, fall in love, and spend time being worked up in an Indian jail. Then, in case anyone thought he was slacking, he acted in Bollywood and fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan… Amazingly, Roberts wrote Shantaram three times after prison guards trashed the first two versions. It’s a profound tribute to his willpower… At once a high-kicking, eye-gouging adventure, a love saga and a savage yet tenderly lyrical fugitive vision.

 

 

I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison.

 

PLOT

What he did and achieved was truly great (even if the things described in the book are semi-real). He actually ran out of prison and changed into a good person here in India.

He escaped from an Australian prison and came to Bombay, India on a fake passport. He opened a free clinic, survived two horrible car accidents and a cholera epidemic, lived in the slums, spent 6 months in a village, fell in love and out of love, learned Hindi and Marathi, went to an Indian prison and got beaten up very badly for 4 months, when released, he joined the mafia gang in Mumbai and worked for them, while he constantly questioned himself- “Is he doing something good joining the mafia to smuggle and cheat?”

The truth is a bully we all pretend to like.

And I did a mistake to read what people think about this book on Goodreads. And either you love this book, or you simply hate it. And I surely come in the first group. People saw this as a tale of a criminal who didn’t do anything but I thought this was beautiful. I mean, I know that India is not fully and truthfully described in it, but this book is not about India, it’s about him.

And as he says, ‘Doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons’, I knew how he changed into the man he was at the end of the book. It contains a great portrayal of how a foreigner came and settled in India and adapted here.

He first came to India as a scared foreigner who was alien to any concept of Indians. He then slowly learnt what it is to be a true Indian at heart. He appreciated his friendships with people, lost many great friends and in the end, he transformed into something better as he said- “In this life, we make an effort to improve ourselves.”

And I think this has a place in my ‘Top 10 books to reread every year’ for sure.

Mistakes are like bad loves, the more you learn from them, the more you wish they’d never happened.

You’ll like this if:-

  1. You want to know about the rich heritage and culture of India and want to know how a prisoner who ran from Australia came and learned the languages here.
  2. You want to read a kind-of biopic of someone who did good after being bad and a robber for most of his life.
  3. You love small lines or quotes and are a huge English-language lover and are obsessed about correct words or witty remarks.
  4. You want to read something that contains 912 pages.

 

One of the ironies of courage, and the reason why we prize it so highly, is that we find it easier to be brave for someone else than we do for ourselves alone.

 

You’ll not like it if:-

  1. If you don’t want to learn about another country.
  2. You don’t like reading real life stories, like a biography.
  3. Or, if you don’t get references of some life thoughts.

 

Someone told me once that if you make your heart a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself.

CHARACTERS

All the characters were somehow real. After reading the book, they seem so real and you instantly believe that they can be real people. Their conversations are the most fun to read and are full of witty comments and lines.

Lindsey or Lin, as the narrator introduces himself; he is kind and just to everyone. He is scared because of the hostile environment and the fear of getting caught. He is a fast learner and picks up whatever he gets to learn during his stay. He is friendly and he has a gang full of friends; both from the slums and the mafia gang.

Karla, Lin’s love is a mysterious woman. She doesn’t let anyone know what she is really and her past. This book doesn’t open her secrets but they are said to be revealed in the sequel to this book.

Didier, Vikram, Modena, Ulla, Johnny Cigar, Lisa, Kavita Singh are some of his friends he loves to spend time with in the Leopold’s Café.

Lord Abdul Khader Khan is Lin’s godfather and his mentor when he joined the gang. Abdullah, Abdul Ghani and Khaled Ansari, Sanjay and Salman are few of his friends in the gang.

And the best part is that they all are described individually and beautifully at each point of time and the reader doesn’t get confused between them at all.

Craziness is the basis of every fine relationship..

WRITING STYLE

The writing is the best part of this book. All the incidents are just perfectly described and I so wanted to read everything in a day (but practically that wasn’t possible because it had 912 pages. Insanely big, right?). I just didn’t seem to get the whole war-thing, and because I ham horribly poor in politics, I think that’s more of my fault because I didn’t seem to understand why were they fighting even? And who was on whose side?

But rest it was poetic (a type I don’t like that much but I loved it here!) and beautiful and just great!!!

Nothing grieves more deeply or pathetically than one half of a great love that isn’t meant to be.

MY REVIEW

After all this gushing if you still don’t know what to do with the book, then please take a nap.

Just go and READ it! And then thank me later.

I’ll give it 5 stars. Wasn’t that obvious?

I was a fugitive. I was a wanted man, a hunted man, with a price on my head. And I was still one step ahead of them. I was free. Every day, when you’re on the run, is the whole of your life. Every free minute is a short story with a happy ending.

If you like this book, you can read the next part ‘The Mountain Shadow’ which takes place 2 years after Shantaram ends.

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Author: Vrushali

I'm a under grad student and I love books, art and writing among many other things. I blog about all of them and all things that are beautiful!

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