Laura's Reviews > Shantaram

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
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's review
Sep 02, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: mindless-entertainment, not-worth-it
Read in September, 2008

The New York Times nailed Shantaram when they said that it is "nothing if not entertaining." The problem is trying to find what else it is. Nine hundred pages of page-turning narrative and I wonder if I have gained anything by it. The characters lack fullness and complexity, the narrator is absurd, and the language suffers the burden of passages so heavily cliched and saturated with bite-sized pseudo-philosophical tidbits as to reduce the novel to little more than a self-help book. Here's one particularly glaring example, referring to the author's time in prison:

"Every time we turn the key we twist the knife of fate, because every time we cage a man we close him in with hate."

I tried to look past these grotesque superfluities and let the book exist in my mind as a contemporary fluff piece, but I was overwhelmed at times. It's not that the book doesn't have its merits; the streets of Bombay, the city itself, is so well depicted that it is easily the most compelling character the book has to offer (no that that's saying much). I admit, I was mildly entertained. If the value of a book is to be judged by entertainment alone, Shantaram may be deemed by some to be worth the investment; just be prepared to knuckle down through some of the most excruciatingly horrid abuse of language I've seen in print for some time.

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02/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben I'm glad someone else disliked this book. I work in a bookstore and I see people continue to buy it like it's the next great novel of India.

I personally read about a third of it and was entirely unimpressed. As you say, the descriptions of the city are very good, but the characters are nonexistent, and I found the dialogue especially to be a travesty.

I guess people assume that because it is really long it is also really good?

I want to slap the book out of the hand of people who are buying it and direct them to Salman Rushdie, or even to Rohinton Mistry or Jhumpa Lahiri, whose books I haven't even read but feel sure are light years better than the Gregory David Roberts' tripe.

Self-congratulating tripe at that: "Oh, look at me, I escaped from prison and became the Tony Soprano Mother Theresa of India! The brown people, they loved me!"


Laura I figure their will always be parlor exoticism of places like India and Africa, regardless of all of the brilliant writing and art that issue from areas less known to the West. Shantaram is just one of many examples of it. I've heard the same thing said of White Tiger which is a far darker depiction of modern India, and though I disagree with that charge, I admit it really is a fine line.




message 3: by Craig (new)

Craig thank you for putting into such eloquent words what i could only communicate in the form of a tortured howl. I really hate this book, well the four chapters (and other random passages)that i could get through.




message 4: by Akshay (new)

Akshay Chandra well, what do you expect from a book ? You guys are talking like you all have won Booker prize and are actually looking for a VALUE PROPOSITION from the novel. See, its just a book. The author didnt robed you. Its you THE FOOLISH who bought a great book and calling it bad.


message 5: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Mirkovic Excellent review. It was painful to read this book. It boggles my mind how it got critically acclaimed. Most of sentences make no sense whatsoever. There are plenty of well written books about India out there I want to invest my time reading.


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