Shantaram (Spanish) Paperback – Jan 1 2012
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A book in Spanish.
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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(?)!
Having gotten that out of the way, let me say the author has done a remarkable job of bringing Bombay to the lay person. He tells of a lush, vibrant city that teems with fascinating characters (Karla aside) and the lessons it has taught him. I am planning a trip there soon; the book has enriched my enduring fascination with India. It is also a story of redemption, and you will have to read it yourself to discover what I mean. There is so much more I could say but I don't want to bore anyone. This is not high literature. But who cares? It is a grand read if you can get past the deep green, dusk-lit lagoons in the swirling maelstrom of Karla's bodacious haunted eyes...
The story is based on the real life adventures of the author, Gregory David Roberts. As the book begins, he has escaped from prison in Australia and made his way to India. Later on we find out more about how he broke out from prison but it's testament to how enthralling the story is that this is not the most eventful part of the book. When he arrives in Mumbai (Bombay) he quickly immerses himself into the city, befriending the locals, learning the languages and even living in a slum. He also befriends a local mafioso and is drawn into the Indian crime world. The story twists and turns and would be unbelievable if it wasn't based so much on fact. Gun runners in Afghanistan, high class prostitutes, Bollywood movie sets and grim Indian prisons all make their appearances. It's a fascinating, suspenseful and exciting book.
Roberts has a gift for writing. He really captures the flavor of India - the smells, the sounds, the colors. After reading this book I felt like jumping on a plane to Mumbai and heading straight to Leopold's for a drink. Instead I settled for recommending it to all my friends, and despite the very different genres that they usually read, they have all loved it also. It's that kind of book. Don't miss it.