I’d just like to preface this review by saying the following: I really should stop going into bookstores when I’m bored. But this store is across the street from where I work so technically it isn’t my fault.
An escaped convict flees his homeland to the spice of Bombay India. As he searches for his own honour, humanity and forgiveness, he finds instead danger, the Indian Mafia and war. He finds everything else but the peace and freedom he so desperately searched for.
Shantaram was written my George David Roberts and is promoted as part true, part fiction. That isn’t what I want to discuss in this review. I’d like to talk about the actual story. Whether or not its truth or fiction is for someone else to debate.
The story was full of vibrant characters, ones you come to know like you would a close friend or neighbor. Some you grow to love like you would a long lost friend and others you fall in love with (trust me, there’s a difference). The richness of the scenery in this books made me ache to traverse the streets of Bombay during the time the main character–who we’ve come to know as Linbaba or just Lin–was there. Every building, every smell, every sound, every language that he overheard while making his way, trying to find himself.
Prabakar, his faithful guide and friend, a man with a smile so wide, innocent and contagious, no matter what he said or what he did, I found myself wanting to hug him as tightly as I possible could. Abdullah, a man who seemed to have no redeeming qualities at first then I finally found one–he was a friend, a man Linbaba could honestly, truly depended on. He came with no motives, no chains but plenty of darkness. I guess that was what Lin saw in him too.
Didier – Oh my beloved Didier always ready with a morsel of wisdom to lift the heart or burn the soul. There were no pretenses about him and I longed to sit in Leopold’s and listen to him talk.
This book was full of twists and turns and hardships and betrayals and darkness. But, there was also some light, some laughter and a wondrous sense of rebirth.
There are parts of Shantaram that dragged on. At times I wonder why GDR would tell us all this information–like Linbaba’s constant debate with other characters about the meaning of life and if there was anything wrong with doing something wrong for the right reasons. Most of these long discussions added nothing to the story or to Lin’s quest to be free.
Other than that, I enjoyed Shantaram. I look forward to reading the sequel, The Mountain Shadow.
If you’re like me and love to check out the author’s website, please note he has withdrawn from the public eye. He no longer has an internet presence. You can, however, read his parting words by clicking here.