Book - 2004
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"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 theunderworld 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.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780312330521
Branch Call Number: F Rob


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Sep 06, 2020

A super long read and that in itself was an enjoyable challenge for me. I looked forward to each new section. Enjoyed the stories about the life of a criminal go through his understanding of who he is and what he must do to survive. Lots of adventure. Detailed and colourful prose. Would recommend. Wish EPL had the next book The Mountain Shadow, but nope.

May 26, 2020

Only read the first part. A bit dragged-down by the author's "Holy f345-did-this-actually-happen"...and probably the reason Depp did "Blow" instead. More succinct, same taste.

Aug 02, 2019

I see that a few others agreed with me in that I believe this was a very interesting book, and it is even more amazing when one considers that it is apparently largely based on the real life of the author. It changed my entire way of looking at India, that's for sure. It could have been the best novel I ever read, and parts of it definitely were up there. BUT ... and this 'but' actually deals even more so with the second book, The Mountain Shadow ... this tale could have most definitely used a lot of editing. Roberts does tend to let himself get a bit carried away with trying to be poetic and descriptive in the extreme, when short and to the point might have served him far better. I think that the two books could have easily been edited down to one epic novel, and with proper editing it could have been a classic, bar none. It is still one of the better books I have read recently, but the author could have used some guidance on a few issues for sure. The repetitive way he also writes about the supposedly mystical love that Lin has for Karla gets downright annoying at times, and it is a bit tough to believe that a man who fits so easily into the hard worlds of prison and crime and warfare would also be so absolutely prone to being treated like an idiot by the women he supposedly loves so much (Karla and Lisa), and happily taking it. Somehow that just doesn't ring true to me. Anyhow, definitely worth a read, and could have been a five star novel with better editing and restraint.

Jul 28, 2019

I really liked parts of this story, and really struggled through other parts. The descriptions of life in the slums of Mumbai and the people of Mumbai were interesting, but the author spent too much time building himself up. The "philosophy" conversations between the author, his love interest, and the other regulars at the bar reminded me of drunken conversations I overheard at parties in my first year of university. There was a lot of potential for this story with all the material it had to work with. I think this would have been one of my top 20 stories if it were cut by about 25% and edited by a professional.

Jul 24, 2018

This was recommended to me by a friend whose opinion I greatly respect.

However, the book is a morass of self aggrandising slurry. Gagged on it quite early on and could just not go on.

I see several 5 star ratings. Mine is 1/2 a star.

May 12, 2018

I’ve read this book twice,
and listened to the audiobook twice as well
(Humphrey Bower does a wonderful job of narrating this book,
complete with Indian, Australian, and Arabic accents.)
This is a rollicking, thoughtful story of India,
of crime and prison, of revenge, of love
and perhaps of redemption as well.
One of the five best books ever, IMO.

Nov 05, 2017

I learned from this book, and am glad I read it. The amount of violence was excessive to me, as was the level of attention to clothing and what people looked like. And it seemed crass at times. But the philosophical musings were stimulating, and the story fascinating.

bplbobbi Aug 12, 2017

i enjoyed this, but as others have pointed out it really could have used some editing.

Aug 08, 2017

RIch, detailed and difficult to put down. I couldn't wait to get back to the characters.

Feb 19, 2017

My friend raved about this book, but Roberts' florid and overwrought writing style was not for me. I much prefer spare and understated prose. Within a few chapters it was clear that the story was also not the sort I enjoy- it's a sordid drama involving the vices of a vast number of people, and I didn't have the energy to keep track of each one of the characters and their complex relationships. I didn't finish this.

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Jul 05, 2010

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nk92hp Mar 26, 2010

Book Summary(

At the start of this massive, thrillingly undomesticated potboiler, a young Australian man bearing a false New Zealand passport that gives his name as "Lindsay" flies to Bombay some time in the early '80s. On his first day there, Lindsay meets the two people who will largely influence his fate in the city. One is a young tour guide, Prabaker, whose gifts include a large smile and an unstoppably joyful heart. Through Prabaker, Lindsay learns Marathi (a language not often spoken by gora, or foreigners), gets to know village India and settles, for a time, in a vast shantytown, operating an illicit free clinic. The second person he meets is Karla, a beautiful Swiss-American woman with sea-green eyes and a circle of expatriate friends. Lin's love for Karla—and her mysterious inability to love in return—gives the book its central tension. "Linbaba's" life in the slum abruptly ends when he is arrested without charge and thrown into the hell of Arthur Road Prison. Upon his release, he moves from the slum and begins laundering money and forging passports for one of the heads of the Bombay mafia, guru/sage Abdel Khader Khan. Eventually, he follows Khader as an improbable guerrilla in the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. There he learns about Karla's connection to Khader and discovers who set him up for arrest. Roberts, who wrote the first drafts of the novel in prison, has poured everything he knows into this book and it shows. It has a heartfelt, cinemascope feel. 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, it might well reproduce its bestselling success in Australia here.
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About the author (Book cover):
GREGORY DAVID ROBERTS was born in Melbourne, Australia. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for a series of armed robberies, he escaped and spent ten of his fugitive years in Bombay - where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured, he served out his sentence, and established a successful multimedia company upon his release. Roberts is now a full-time writer and lives in Bombay.


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