Joe's Reviews > Shantaram

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
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's review
Jun 17, 10

bookshelves: indian-literature, india, novel, epic, audiobook, fiction
Read in June, 2010

(Note: this review is based on both the hardcover and the audiobook). This is the epic drama of an Australian prison escapee who flees to New Zealand and then forges a new life for himself in Bombay’s slums and then aligns himself with its mafia. I’m not sure whether it’s semi or entirely autobiographical, but the author took 13 years to write this expansive piece and had two-thirds of it destroyed while in prison only to rewrite it and finished it with another 300 pages. Granted it needs to pared down somewhat and listening to the audiobook (some 43 hours, the longest I’ve listened to so far) was at times a test of endurance, I still found the 933 page novel mesmerizing and an impressive action-filled, heartrending adventure.

The reader’s fluidity (Humphrey Bower), with Indian, British, Australian, American, German, Nigerian and French, accents and dialects was absolutely amazing. His riveting reading kept me going back for more when reading would have been much faster. The subject matter of survival in India was at times violent and crude, and also funny, heart warming and inspiring. I was rarely bored. (Johnny Depp is supposedly starring in the movie version of this. Would be very interesting to see whether a movie would follow the book. So much great material.)

Not surprisingly though, the supporting characters really set the pace for this page turner. The main character Lin’s good friend Prabaker, brilliantly written worth the reading just to get to know. Due to its international flair, it weren’t for the brilliant reader, I would not know the correct pronunciation of many of the Indian or Middle Eastern characters’ names. It was a great education in and of itself. It was worth the long journey again, it needs to be edited. Still, I respect the fact that Gregory stayed with this project for 13 years, but the main character’s philosophical conjecturing throughout the book slowed the paced considerably at times, so be prepared for it. It is long but worth reading this tome.

FOLLOW UP:
I've moved on to reading other books, but am still immersed by the memories of this story...
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Reading Progress

05/20/2010 "Chap 1"
05/21/2010 "chapter 2 (audiobook)"
05/24/2010 "chapter 3"
05/25/2010 "Chapter 4"
05/25/2010 "Chapter 8"
05/26/2010 "Part 2 Chapter 9. What a story this is..."
05/26/2010 page 170 "Part 2 Chapter 9"
05/29/2010 page 349 "Chap 17"
05/31/2010 page 418 "Ch 21 Great listening adventure(and read) so far."
06/01/2010 "Chapter 24"
06/02/2010 page 633 "Chapter 30"
06/03/2010 page 783 "Part 5 Chapter 37"
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