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Shantaram: A Novel [Paperback]

Gregory David Roberts
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 29 2005
"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.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

A thousand pages is like a thousand pounds--it sounds like too much to deal with. Nevertheless, Roberts' very long novel sails along at an amazingly fast clip. Readers in the author's native Australia apparently finished every page of it, for they handed it considerable praise. Now U.S. readers can enjoy this rich saga based on Roberts' own life: escape from a prison in Australia and a subsequent flight to Bombay, which is exactly what happens to Lindsay, the main character in the novel; once in Bombay, he joins the city's underground. Roberts graphically, even beautifully, evokes that milieu--he is as effective at imparting impressions as any good travel writer--in this complex but cohesive story about freedom and the lack of it, about survival, spiritual meaning, love, and sex; in other words, about life in what has to be one of the most fascinating cities in the world. One's first impression of this novel is that it is simply a good story, but one soon comes to realize that Roberts is also a gifted creator of characters--not only Lindsay but also Prabaker, who becomes Lindsay's guide, caretaker, and entree into various elements of Bombay society. Soon, too, one becomes aware and appreciative of Roberts' felicitous writing style. In all, despite the novel's length, it is difficult not to be ensnared by it. And, be forewarned, it will be popular. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Step Away From Epic June 3 2011
By Michael TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I flat out love this book. At 900 pages, I was actually saddened when it ended. The story reads like prose. At times one wondered if the author was trying too hard to impress, but his beautiful, captivating style was demonstrated so often and almost effortlessly that the thought was put to rest.

One of the things I love is the multitude of genres included in this story. Romance, action,adventure, philosophy. All of these and more are blended in to this one mans figurative and literal journey. Another aspect I both loved and loathed was the jarring change of pace that happened at least 3-4 times. You're cozy, you're enjoying the scenery then WHAM! The trajectory flips 180 degrees and you're shaking your head wondering if it really DID just happen. I grew to love this device as I was never allowed to get TOO comfortable.

If there's one negative, and it's not exactly small- it's that I put the book down twice and had to read 200 pages before I found myself entrenched. I was very close to giving up, but am sooo glad I jumped back on board. After those 200 pages I could not stop reading nor could I wait to get back to find out what was going on with these beautifully imagined characters and the world they inhabited. I work in a book store and whenever this book comes up from someone who's read it, I find myself talking for 5-10 minutes to passionate readers both male and female. If you can, do what I did and don't read what it's about. Just dive in and let the author immerse you in his characters world.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible! Extraordinary! Jan. 3 2006
This book is just simply extraordinary in every sense! It has action, excitement, romance, intrigue, history, philosophy, travel, and so much more. One would think, with so many topics covered, that it would be a confusing mish-mash, but it is nothing of the sort. It is spell-binding - very hard to put down - & written with such smooth beauty and depth, that many passages take your breath away. The writer was born to write. It is obviously semi-autobiographical, which makes it even more fascinating. I most highly recommend this novel as an absolutely satisfying and fascinating experience, on many levels! Read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story...but that's it. Sept. 5 2011
The story is superb. It is intriguing, completely out of the ordinary, and a great plot for any novel.

The style of writing is, as a couple of commenters have also echoed, self-indulgent and over-dramatic at times. The author is prone to spending pages waxing poetic on personal ideologies on life, love, and even existentialism. Although these themes may be related to the novel's development, the time and effort dedicated to describing them do not add to the novel. In general, the author tends to be very eloquent, and the language over-use became distracting and made the novel difficult to read as the story wore on.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bollywood Movie of a Book Dec 3 2007
I love this book. I originally wrote a review for "Shantaram" and gave it only four stars because sometimes Roberts writes purple prose. My conscience tormented me. I decided "Shantaram" is like a Bollywood movie, a bit of everything--adventure, travel writing, romance, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, religion, and science. Maybe the purple prose bits work somehow in all this, offsetting the gorgeous literary writing passages, the travel writing blurbs, and the action stretches. The effect is addictive. It was rainy and dreary in Vancouver, but through "Shantaram" I was in the humid heat of Mumbai. What I loved best was Roberts' compassion, his love for people that makes his characters so real. The scope of his writing covers a wide array of Mumbai life, from slum dwellers to doctors, to film producers and mafia bosses. I wanted to share this great read and gave the book away--now I'm going to buy another copy to reread myself.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Whole Deal Oct. 30 2005
AMAZING! This book has everything captivated into it. Mystery, Romance, Crime, Friendship EVERYTHING! It is very hard down this magnificent piece of work. It is very easy to read, flows very nicely and it keeps you going. It makes you feel as if you Gregory is sitting beside you telling his story. I suggest that everyone take a chance to read this amazing work. Don let the thickness scare you, it is a very easy read, EXCEPTIONAL!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Stars: 6.0 (out of 5)

The sensational epic novel Shantaram by Australian author Gregory David Roberts is one that I don't think I will ever forget for as long as I live. It is the best book I have ever read and giving it 5 stars just isn't enough to express how much I loved it and what a profound effect its author has had on the way I look at the world.

This is a book I savored like a last bottle of water in the desert, while reading several others in between over a period of five months, because I never wanted it to end. Its gripping, visceral descriptions of prison life will make you squirm in your seat and its heartrending passages about the loss of loved ones will have you weeping uncontrollably, but it will also make you daydream, smile, and laugh out loud.

The theme of Shantaram is the exile experience, alienation, and man's quest for meaning. It's also about shame and self-loathing, sadness and hope, fear and forgiveness, poverty and true wealth, understanding and catharsis. And above all, it is about love.

Shantaram (which is actually the second book in a trilogy that has not yet been published) for the most part takes place in Bombay (Mumbai) and the author's knowledge and love for the Indian people is so intoxicating and infectious that it will make you want to visit India with the hope that you will come to know its people in the same way. He describes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of India (as well as his romantic retreat in Goa and the war torn and ravaged Afghanistan) with as much perfect detail, love and care as a famous artist put into his masterpiece with each strategic brush stroke.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A wonderful read that I could enjoy all summer.
Published 5 days ago by Nancy Mulvihill
4.0 out of 5 stars Good condition
Wasn't as great of condition that I was expecting but still good.
Published 5 days ago by Amanda totte
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the most beautifully written and best books I've read...
This is one of the most beautifully written and best books I've read in my whole life so far. (I'm 52) Highly, highly recommended!!
Published 15 days ago by Lee Wolfe
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Best book I have read…ever
Published 18 days ago by Billy Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars If it had continued like that, I would have abandoned the book
I was hooked on the first page however, there is a section in the middle that I found hard to understand how it added to the story. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bob purgavie
4.0 out of 5 stars Shantaram: A novel
It's a very good read. Being from Mumbai myself, the geographical descriptions are excellent. I found myself engaged and hooked right to the very end!
Published 3 months ago by Keith D'Sa
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional story
I really liked this novel, great story, characters, writing, hope it is brought to the big screen soon. It helps that it's based upon a true story.
Published 5 months ago by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engrossing Read
The word imagery is beautiful. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend to everyone. Some graphic scenes but very well written overall.
Published 7 months ago by JenBDots
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read
A rich and compelling story, this book works on multiple levels and it held me spellbound from cover to cover. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Baba Gee
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story
I felt like I was in Leopold's and he was telling me his life story. Very descriptive story teller. I highly recommend this book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Daisy
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