I came to Shantaram through the recommendation of a friend after I expressed joy from reading Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found - a thrilling non-fiction account of modern Bombay's underworld. Shantaram didn't disappoint. Since it's a 900+ pager, I was engaged with it for several weeks. It so deeply absorbed me I began to feel pangs of sorrow as I approached its end. The universe this book creates was one of only a handful that this voracious reader was terribly saddened to leave at the book's conclusion. The book covers so many issues in loving detail: Bombay, Asia, the expatriate experience, poverty, crime, heroin addiction, love, betrayal, redemption. I'd love to see Shantaram nominated as a "classic" and read by high school and college students instead of non-starters like Wuthering Heights and The Scarlet Letter. Love learned and lost amongst poverty, crime and deception is love, nevertheless. I can't wait until the Mira Nair/Johnny Depp film version of the book is released in 2008(?)!
Insights into India
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 12 years ago
India, the people, the culture, the country, the history, is all of keen interest to me. This amazing book not only has a compelling addictive story line about how a fugitive escapes jail in Australia to arrive in Bombay, live in the slums, befriend the local people, become engrossed in country and find a mentor in an India mafia don, but also provides some key insights into the amazing people and wealth of culture of which India comprises. The book is written in such a manner the reader is immediately immersed in the story, to the point where all the senses are witnessing the hot muggy stifling streets of Bombay, the claustrophobia & loneliness experienced in prison & the adrenalin rush and desperation whilst in Afghanistan. At the same time, Shantaram portrays compassion and love from people with only basic essentials to survive can give an 'outsider' in a time of need. A must read.
can any other book measure up?
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 12 years ago
I have read all the great classics, from crime & punishment to war & peace to gone with the wind, and I was very skeptical when I read the reviews of Shantaram and how people we're calling it a masterpiece. after reading it, I can honestly say that I have never read anything that kept me reading as much as Shantaram did. Shantaram is a literary masterpiece and Roberts is Da Vinci with a pen. I don't believe I will ever read anything that will top this one, I don't think it is even possible. the only writer who might be able to do it is Roberts himself. there probably is not one person alive today that can read this book and say that it didnt make them want to be inside those pages, living the lives of these characters. I give this book 10 stars out of 5.
Vikram Seth meets grunge rock
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 13 years ago
When was the last time you read an epic? More pertinently, when was the last time you read a contemporary book that you would label an epic? It's been a while for me for sure, a fact that tremendously highlighted the pleasure I derived from this book. [The focus of this review is going to be only the quality of writing, and the wave of feelings precipitated by this book. There's enough been said about the story, and I really want to share how this book made me feel instead.] So let's start at the very beginning - the opening sentence of the book: "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". And the last line of the first page: "So it begins, this story, like everything else - with a woman, a city, and a little bit of luck." How can one not get hooked to a book which promises to be so artless and almost adolescent in its outlook, combining naiveté with world-weary wisdom as only a few people can at any point in their entire life? Don't jump to conclusions though - the book is far from being "soft". On the same page, Roberts writes about being "chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed, and starved." And this is where the power of the book lies - it can be simple, and startlingly explosive, all at the same time. In part that's attributable to the roller-coaster life the author lead, but it would be unfair to take credit away from Roberts' writing capabilities. In the hands of a lesser writer, this could easily have been over-the-top trash. My favourite attribute of the book though, is its vivid delineation of Bombay. The book brought to light aspects of Bombay that most people don't hear about ever, and very few see, but which I had caught glimpses of constantly from the corner of my eyes, and was sure were there. Many a time when I had sat at Leopold's, I had noticed the incongruity of the place and suspected that there was more to it than met the eye. It was impossible to escape the subtle undercurrent of misdemeanors, and this book throws the curtains back and shows explicitly how deep the rabbit hole really went. From Colaba to Dharavi, from high-rises to rat-infested gullies, Roberts' portrait of the city's attitude, its mood, its character, is impeccable. And the smell, the smell - I used to think it I was imagining it, but I'm glad to learn that I'm not the only one. The greatest achievement of this book, for me, was actually not its vivid description of Bombay, but the fact that it actually made me nostalgic for a city I can't bear to be in. When was the last time a book made you feel like that? Get this book.
Rises Above its Own Flaws, and Ascends
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 14 years ago
You might say I'm in love with this book. I clearly see its shortcomings, but I adore it nevertheless. It's a vast, gorgeous story with memorable characters and a setting so well described that I feel as though I've lived there. Many chapters dance and writhe with more joy and pain than many novels do in their entirety. Yes, that's partly because it's a ridiculous 900 pages long, but it's also because the author is writing from his own life experience and tells the story with palpable passion. That is the book's weakness and also its strength. The author holds nothing back in the telling of the story, so the writing feels unrestrained and is rarely succinct. The author gushes about a lover's lips to the point of embarassment and peppers every page with a distracting number of adjectives and commas. The frequent digressions and philosophical musings feel ponderous as often as they seem enlightening. But the sheer vitality of the story along with the force of the author's joys and sorrows are so convincing that these shortcomings often seem as substantial as dust motes. Perhaps I even love "Shantaram" more because of them. Final note: If for no other reason, you should read this book in order to meet one of the most endearing characters ever brought to life in a novel--a man by the name of Prabaker.
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