Tara Woolpy's Reviews > Shantaram

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
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Feb 05, 2011

did not like it

I really wanted to like this book. The descriptions of Bombay in the early pages were captivating. However, I only made it through half before I gave up and asked a friend who had read it to tell me the rest of the story. Over 900 pages is too long, especially when half the narrative is inside the character's head. Which was problematic for me since I didn't much like him (exactly what is likeable about a man who throws a hissy fit because a woman won't tell him her secrets ON THE SIDEWALK outside of a supposedly dangerous place?). This book needed a good editor who could have cut it down to a manageable size and tamed some of the more ridiculous prose moments. And stomped on the author's ego. I get annoyed when books read as wish fullfillment - perhaps, as many people say, this is autobiographical - but if so, it's an edited version where the hero is always strong and handsome and brave.

Clearly people either love or hate this book. The people I know who enjoyed it seem to be intrigued by the philosphy, the setting (which at times is fascinating) and the fast-paced adventure (which wasn't my experience of the book). The best aspect for me was the view from inside the slum - although this was marred by the problem of the white guy coming to rescue slum dwellers. It was a glimpse of a very different world. If the book had ended when he left the slum I would have liked it much better.
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