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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780312330538

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

936 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Gregory David Roberts

14 books3,443 followers
Gregory David Roberts (GDR) is an Australian artist, composer, songwriter, and author of Shantaram, its sequel, The Mountain Shadow, and The Spiritual Path.

Following the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of custody of his daughter, he turned to heroin to numb the pain, and crime to feed his habit. In 1978, Roberts was sentenced to 19 years in prison for armed robbery (with a plastic weapon), he escaped and spent eight years in Bombay as a fugitive. Here he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers and worked as a counterfeiter and smuggler for a branch of the South Bombay mafia.

Recaptured and extradited to Australia, he served out his sentence, which included two years in solitary confinement as a punishment for his escape. The time in solitary was to become a turning point in his life. When released, Roberts completed writing Shantaram and it was published in 2003 to critical acclaim. He returned to Mumbai where he set up a personal initiative to assist the city's poor with lifesaving healthcare.

In the years that followed he became an in-demand public speaker and philosopher and received thousands of messages from readers saying the book had been “life changing”. Roberts went ‘off-grid’ in 2014 to look after his sick parents and pursue a spiritual path of devotion.

In 2019, he established a multimedia company, Empathy Arts, and the following year released his debut album Love&Faith, which was recorded at Geejam Studios in Jamaica. The same year saw the release of his first non-fiction book The Spiritual Path.

Roberts’ life affirming messages on social media, of taking personal responsibility, never giving up, living a purposeful life and embracing our common humanity, have resonated with people across the world.

In October 2022, the TV series Shantaram based on the book, aired on AppleTV+. Roberts currently resides in Jamaica, where he continues to write, produce music and create art.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,558 reviews
Profile Image for MISS Petra to you!  Say yes ma'am.
2,383 reviews33.9k followers
October 15, 2022
Like Marmite, or Vegemite - another Australian export - you either loved this book or hated it. I hated it. I really, really hated it. It was a waste of my life enduring five chapters of this egotistical drivel by someone who thought their life was 933-pages worth of importance. He was an escaped convict from an Australian prison and I bet his fellow prisoners and warders must have sighed with relief to no longer be victims of this self-righteous man's endless burble of cod-philosophy, 'deep' insights into other people, and general, overweening self-love.

Of course, if you are in the majority of the raters of this book, you wouldn't agree with this review at all. And that is why I stuck at it for so long. I kept thinking all those readers, those bright and entertaining reviewers out there, must be able to see something I can't. But whatever it was, it eluded me and so, with a huge sigh of relief, this book gets sent on to the Animal Shelter. There it will be either sold in the monthly book sale or ripped up and used for bedding or kitty-lit. Either way it will benefit them more than me.

933 pages is a heavy book, and I do feel the benefit now it's lifted.
Profile Image for Joseph.
178 reviews45 followers
April 20, 2008
My god. What an incredible load of drivel this is. Though there is room in the world for large stories largely told, Gregory David Roberts' self-aggrandazing pseudo-autobiography teems with ludicrously bad prose, characters so flat I'd like to use them to keep water off my bathroom floor, dimwitted philosophy, and self-love. I quite literally had to stop reading from embarassment at the sex scenes ("my body was her chariot and she rode me into the sun"? ye gods), and repeatedly found myself saying, "No, actually", at Roberts' increasingly idiotic turns of simile and metaphor even outside that context.

Absolute drek.
1 review12 followers
May 1, 2017
I managed 200 pages of this utter drivel before giving up completely. Poorly-written nonsense which is gathering critical acclaim from people who probably read one book a year.

At one point - during a scene when the narrator is looking at a river - he ACTUALLY writes: 'I was thinking of another river. A river that runs through all of us. The river of the heart.'

I do not have time in my life for this sub-Danielle Steel horseshit.

EDIT: About ten years on I still keep getting activity on this review. Reading it back now, there's no denying it: I sound like a total dick. I didn't like the book but that's no reason to be such a pompous tool. I guess I was in a bad place at the time. I'll leave it up here as both historical record and a warning: stuff you write when you're younger may make you cringe a decade on.
Profile Image for Amy Luke.
1 review50 followers
January 26, 2008
There's enough reviews on this book I'm not going to summarize it again. I love this book, and yes it's massive but I think I've read it 3 times. It's not perfect but the parts that are great make up for the wobbly bits. I thought I'd throw in some of the lines I liked:

"The world and I are not on speaking terms," Karla said to me once in those early months. "The world keeps trying to win me back," she said, "but it doesn't work. I guess I'm just not the forgiving type."

"If you want to curdle the milk of your human kindness, or turn your compassion into contempt, get a job as a waitress or a cleaner. The two fastest ways to develop a healthy loathing for the human race and its destiny is to serve food, or clean up after it, on the minimum wage. I have done both jobs, in those terrible days when I was forced to work for a living. It was horrible. I shudder now in thinking about it. That's where I learned that nothing ever really changes."

"When we're young, we think that suffering is something that's done to us. When we get older - when the steel door slams shut, in one way or another - we know that suffering is measured by what's taken away from us."

"Guilt is the hilt of the knife that we use on ourselves, and love is often the blade; but it's worry that keeps the knife sharp, and worry that gets most of us, in the end."

"At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won't stop loving them, even after they're dead and gone."
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books639 followers
October 14, 2022
This is an awful book. Awful.

Full of beginners-grade philosophy that we're meant to think is profound, and horrible pretentious characters who talk like actors in a Victorian stage play, and dreadful over-embellished prose that litters every single ghastly page.

I say every page. Perhaps it's not true, because I didn't read the final 90% of the book. I gave up the minute I reached the following quote:

'My eyes were lost swimming floating free in the shimmering lagoon of her steady even stare. Her eyes were large and spectacularly green. It was the green that trees are in vivid dreams. It was the green that the sea would be if the sea were perfect.'

Really? 'It was the green that the sea would be if the sea were perfect?' Are you sure, Gregory? Because, personally, I prefer my seas blue, the way nature intended them to be. Personally, I'd be a little terrified if the seas turned green, because that would mean a huge increase in the number of phytoplankton, which would in turn affect the ocean food web, which might then lead to a mass extinction of ocean-dwelling species, which is really rather less than perfect, isn't it, Greg? So get off your high horse and quit your fucking jibber-jabber, because you're really not as deep or as clever as you think you are.
53 reviews26 followers
March 24, 2009
I moved this from my "currently reading" shelf to my "read" shelf because there is no "I gave up on this piece of crap" shelf. 600 pages into it, I had to set myself free by throwing it in the toilet. No, seriously, I threw it in the toilet. Then I had to fish it out and clean the deluge of toilet water all over the place created by this tremendously large and heavy piece of crap book. This book makes me angry because I will never get that 600 pages of my life back. I could have been doing something important like closing my eyes really tight to see an intersting light show or going through my neighbors trash.

A great deal of this book is obviously autobiographical. I base this clever decution on the fact that the author, who is a former convict who escaped from prison and fled to Bombay where he lived in the slums, started a free medical clinic and joined the mafia, writes a book about a guy who escapes from prison and flees to Bomabay where he lives in the slums, starts a free medical clinis and joins the mafia. As such, it is written in the manner of someone who is scared of offending their former host and who also seems concerned that flaws in the main character will reflect badly on himself, the author. This sacrifices any possibility of creating an intersting, dynamic or realistic main character. It is comletely uncompelling and entirely unbelievable. The story of a westerner who integrates himself into Indian society, starting in the slums, should be facinating. To read this, everything and everyone is wonderful, the people are all so loving and beautiful, blah blah blah. Maybe all that is true, but hey there main character, weren't you a little frustrated and embarrassed when everyone in town lined up to watch you take a crap every morning? Everything negative the character experiences is presented as an account of facts, everything positive is a big sappy gush fest. Give me a break.

Then the reader is then regaled with pages upon pages of various characters spoon feeding each other philosphy. Sad twelve year old girls writing poetry could provide more inspiration.

I don't understand why this book gets such good reviews. There are so many amazing books about India. Read one of them. Better yet, just go to India. The money you would spend on this book will get you at least 2 meals depending on where you are. If you've had the misfortune of receiving this book as a gift, use it to kill spiders or keep it by your bedside to throw at possible intruders. Just don't waste your time reading it.
7 reviews11 followers
June 14, 2008
This is possibly the best book I've ever read. It was given to me by a friend of mine who loved it, and said that before she read it she had no desire to go to India, but after having read it she couldn't wait to go.

This book is over 900 pages, so I found it a little challenging to start b/c I didn't want to carry it around with me to read on the bus (too bulky) and I was so tired each night that I couldn't read more than a page or two. But I finally got a chance to read a small chunk of it in one sitting and that was it for me. I loved it and couldn't put it down.

There are a few notable things about this book. One is that it's billed as a novel but I'm 90% certain that these things all actually happened to the author. I think he wrote it as a novel so he could change some names and protect the innocent (or guilty). Another amazing thing is how well it's written. This guy isn't really a trained writer, and I think he has a natural ability which is very rare. I am exceedingly critical of bad writing styles, and not once did anything in this book irritate me. Perhaps because he is such a great writer, all of the characters are well developed and you find yourself wanting to know what happens with each of them--and there are a lot. I honestly couldn't name all the characters he describes in detail--more than probably any other book I've read. But at no point did I find myself thinking I couldn't keep track of who was who (which I often do), and I really cared about each of these people personally.

The story itself is phenomenal, and I have been giving this book to everyone I know. Read it. It's amazing and it will be one of the best books you've ever read.
Profile Image for Jen Padgett Bohle.
80 reviews94 followers
October 13, 2022
If I met the protagonist, Linbaba, in the flesh, I'd, well, I'd beg my meatiest friend to rough him up. Repeatedly. Lin's adventures in Bombay are apparently based on humble author Gregory David Roberts's exploits playing savior and mafiosi there while in hiding after a daring escape from an Australian prison (thanks for a fellow goodreader for correcting me ---I had previously written New Zealand). LinBaba becomes irksome and tiresome after Part 1, repeatedly offering little nuggets of pseudowisdom to summarize what he has learned from a particular person or situation. (I actually really despise the aforementioned phrase "nugget of wisdom" but I find it accurate here to really emphasize the fact that these "nuggets" are fleeting and become utterly meaningless because there are apx. 10 per page). Along with the wisdom, most of the novel consists of the protagonist vacillating between moral extremes as either a savior of street and slum or a thug loyal to a Bombay mafia don. For all of these roles, and all of the blurring of good and evil, though, the novel still comes up short in terms of complexity --- in thought, theme, and characterization. I particularly found Lin's trust and god-like admiration of Khader, his mafia boss and father figure, too simplistic and naive.
Everything was just a bit too dizzying and dazzling, like Roberts knew this was going to be picked up by Hollywood. Lin insists upon showing readers that he has connections in all of Bombay's divergent milieus --- from Bollywood, to the slums, to the mafia, to the expats and the heroin dens, LinBaba knows all. He even goes to Afghanistan in the midst of the Soviet invasion. This novel needs more unity and focus; moving from one incident to another, with a bit of wisdom in between, gets tedious and vexing.

All that negativity aside, this was a grand adventure story and was, for all my complaints, entertaining. Roberts obviously has a flair for dialogue, capturing the dialects of German, French, and Indian speakers, and Prabaker, Lin's best friend in Bombay, is a standout character. Actually, he was the best part of the novel for me, and far more realistic and entertaining than anyone else.
Profile Image for Mayuri.
58 reviews28 followers
August 29, 2008
The way Roberts describes Indians in this book is like a series of bad caricatures - I cringed terribly. There is the over-friendly and smiling, trusting, barbaric, not very clever, poor Prabaker - (I HATED the way he wrote Prabaker's English. It made him sound like a racist Disney character or like the golum from LOTR) to the cool and smooth Iranian gangster (if you like ridiculous Bollywood movies, this is the book for you!) In typical fashion, the white guy is the hero of nearly every scene, a la Patrick Swayze in City of Joy, as if people who lived in slums sit around waiting for a white hero to come and save them.

BUT there were things I liked about the book (aside from the sweet friend who lent it to me). It is cushioned in so much love for India and its people. And while that love is sometimes really dramatic and poorly written (like when he ends each chapter with an epiphany or worse, the love scenes) you get the sense as the book moves on that he becomes more of an insider telling the story from inside and not from outside, which is incredibly admirable. How many white people do I know that would move to the slums of Bombay, learn Marathi, visit a village, fight street dogs, etc. etc. For those moments alone, I was glad to be reading it.

Profile Image for Adina.
776 reviews2,943 followers
December 9, 2020
I feel like I betrayed myself, my family and some of my friends because I did not like this book more. My statement seems a bit rough but my heart is really heavy. This is why!
I started this book 10 years ago while on a trip to Mumbai. Where else! As I was studying in Italy at that time I bought the book in Italian. I remember that I loved what I read but dropped it somewhere at page 200 in order to read it in the original language, English. I do not know how and why but 10 years have passed before I finally got to start again. In the meantime, I recommended the book to my grandma (became one of her favorite books, read it multiple times), my father (loved it) and some friends which all enjoyed it. I was so sure I will love it as well. Well, I did like it but I did not love it.

For the good part, it is a ambitious adventure book with interesting facts about the Indian culture and it was mostly entertaining.

My main issue with this doorstopper is that I hated the main character. That is a problem as the book is all about HIM. The book is a slightly autobiographical novel about an Australian armed robber who escapes from prison and lands himself in Mumbai. There, he moves into a slum, starts a free clinic and gets involved with the city’s mafia. Many things happen to the guy and between those extraordinary events multiple philosophical ideas are inserted who tend to be quite repetitive. His struggle between his good part (savior of the slum) and his bad part (criminal activities with the Bombay Mafia ) take many boring pages. It felt like the narrator tried very, very hard to convince the reader to have a good opinion of him, that even if he is a criminal he is one of the good guys and his acts are justifiable. He has two full chapters in which he presents his philosophy of what is really evil and what is a decent crime (things like passports falsification, money laundering etc). To me Shantaram was a pompous, self-absorbed prick who tried more than half of the book to look like such a wonderful person, some sort of “messiah” for the residents of Mumbai. Really!? How had those Indians survived without him? Everybody loved him and respected him. He was welcomed by everybody in their homes and heart. Also, for half of the book all the characters were wonderful, with no apparent defects. I mean, even the criminals were loving, heartwarming philosophers which felt really odd.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,613 reviews12.8k followers
April 23, 2019
Returning to read Gregory David Roberts' epic novel again, I found myself drawn to the complexities and nuances embedded throughout the text. As the novel opens, the reader is introduced to Lin, a man who has escaped his Australian jail and arrives in Bombay, hoping to hide in India's vast populace. Early on, Lin is forced to realise that India is a beast unlike any other; culturally, racially, and economically. It is, however, home to many who have the same idea, hiding from their criminal pasts elsewhere. These include Karla Saarinen, a woman who occupies Lin's mind and dreams from the moment he lays eyes on her. As Lin befriends others who have recently arrive in country, seeking to blend into the billions around him with vague and beige backstories, he meets a tour guide, Prabaker (Prabu). Their connection is almost instantaneous, soon becoming an entertaining pair throughout the narrative. Prabu is able to help Lin make numerous connections in and around the city. While they venture out to better explore Bombay and eventually other parts of the state, Lin learns the culural differences between India and his Australian upbringing. As Prabu and Lin continue their adventures, the latter finds himself living in the city's slums and opens a medical clinic to cater to the poorest population, where Lin becomes involved with the shady underworld and black market living. Throughout the book, Lin crosses paths with those whose simple conversations turn philosophical and force him to digest complex analyses to the universe's most basic concepts. When offered a position working in forged passports by the Bombay Mafia, Lin accepts, if only to explore new pathways to survival. His living in the slums of Bombay prove not only eye opening, but life changing in ways that the reader can only understand by being enveloped in the larger narrative. Even as Lin is able to build himself up in his new homeland, he is broken by the cruelest and most sadistic Indians, especially when his identity is learned and extradition considered. Roberts offers so much in this narrative that it is hard to summarise or believe that this is the life of a single man on the run. However, where truth ends and fiction commences, the reader is permitted a front seat for everything and the chance to change alongside Lin throughout. A must read by any and all who want to offer up all they feel they know, only to finish the book and question everything.

Set in the early to mid-1980s, the story weaves together a collection of vignettes within Lin's Indian life, while also telling an overarching story of change and progress. I have read that some criticise Roberts for being too free with his truths and duping the reader, though I must say that fiction is all about embellishment or at least working with a clay and forming it into an image of your choosing. Roberts' writing style is so blunt and yet smooth that the reader cannot help but get lost therein. The daunting size of the book should not deter the interested reader, as the vignettes play out easily and the characters are rich in their backstories and mesh well with the larger tale. Roberts has certainly held back little in this account of his 'life on the run', but also offers gaps significant enough to keep scores of questions floating in the minds of the attentive reader. Will these be resolved and if so, how does it all play into the narrative Roberts presents? The second volume of this quasi-memoir should tell more, though the bar has already been set quite high. I am eager to see how the detail will continue and what Roberts has to say with the handful of characters still involved in Lin's life. This is a brilliant piece of work and I can only imagine what is to come.

I cannot finish this review without commenting on the narrator of the audiobook version of this massive tome. Humphrey Bower brought the story to life, from his melodious Australian accent in the narrative to the countless accents that he brought out to give characters their personality. I adore Bower's work and his dedication to another favourite author of mine made me wonder, when first I listened, if this was that writer using another name. Powerful and daunting, Bower deserves a shout out for his reading of this piece. I am worried that the second volume, which I must physically read (gasp), will prove much more difficult without Bower at the helm.

Kudos, Mr. Roberts for this epic story. With simplistic writing and complex threads, a vast array of readers will surely enjoy this book. Onto the sequel, which one can hope is as exciting and life-altering.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:
Profile Image for Debbie.
683 reviews425 followers
September 15, 2022
FINALLY! Gregory David Roberts says it took him 13 long and troubled years to write this book. I felt it took me that long to READ it! Because it was recommended to me, I strove to read it in its entirety.

Why I found this to be a troublesome read:
1. Lin (main character based on the author). Although I enjoy reading about flawed protagonists (and Lin definitely was), he comes across as an arrogant, hypocritical modern-day Robin Hood. GDR legitimizes child slavery, scoring drugs for tourists, giving "dirty" money to slum dwellers, counterfeiting passports, licenses, etc. while being involved with organized crime - all this didn't win any Brownie points from me, and often left me angry. Truly, an unsympathetic character from start to finish.
2. This book was too long-winded! What was the editor thinking??? She should have taken some HUGE pruning shears and cut out at least 400-500 pages, starting with the endless use of inane similes and metaphors about everything, as well as his eyerolling philosophical musings! GDR writes about facial and bodily features and clothing worn by EVERYONE he meets! And how many times does he have to describe Karla's eyes, hair, lips, clothing, etc.? I get it! She's drop-dead gorgeous with green eyes, black hair, luscious lips and likes wearing green clothes! Too bad she's a one-dimensional character. The constant use of description would be something my Grade 3 students would attempt in their story writing.

Some redeeming qualities:
1. Slum dwellers, Johnny Cigar and Joseph, slum manager, Qasim Ali Hussein, Lin's hilarious friend, Prabaker, the Standing Babas - even Kano the Bear, were all entertaining characters, and I would have been fascinated to learn more of their stories.
2. Lin's time spent in an Indian prison was the most hair-raising, engrossing part of the story for me!

Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros for me in regards to quality story writing. GDR tries to describe India, its culture and its people, but if you want to read a truly captivating story about this topic, I highly recommend A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,016 reviews551 followers
March 3, 2022
Let's get this straight from the start: according to the author this book is based on real events but it’s a novel, a work of fiction – not an autobiography. And that’s ok, except as this book is clearly based heavily on the author’s life I couldn't help asking myself where exactly in this tale is the fact and where is the fiction? It did make for a strange experience.

Anyway, some known facts about Gregory David Roberts:

- An self confessed heroin addict, in 1978 he was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for armed robberies carried out to feed his habit.
- He escaped and skipped Australia, leaving a wife and daughter behind, intending to make his way to Europe but after a stopover in Bombay (Mumbai) he decided to settle in the island city.
- After being befriended by some of the locals he lived in the Navy Nagar slum for a period and also spent some time living with a family in a remote village.

All of the above feature in the book, and a good deal more too. The adventures include coping with a cholera epidemic, joining the local mafia and teaming up with the Afghan Mujahedeen to fight the might of the Soviet forces. It’s an epic tale that takes up a wrist busting 900 plus pages, or in my case over 42 hours of audio. I have to say that Humphrey Bower brilliantly read the audio version - he brought the characters to life and his accents were, on the whole, expertly handled.

There’s much more to the book than the facts I've listed above, although these do provide the basic structure for the story. I'm still trying to fully process how I feel about this one but I know there are things I loved about it and other elements that created significant misgivings.

On the upside, the descriptions of India and its people are fantastic. Life in the city and in the small village is graphically portrayed and I really felt I was living these sections. Some of the characters were exceptional – I particularly loved Prabhaker, Didier, Vicram and the scarily insane Habib. I don't want to give anything away but I will say there are scenes that left me variously laughing out loud, desperately sad and/or pretty much revolted and scared witless – the latter particularly coming to the fore when our hero was temporarily incarcerated in Bombay’s Arthur Road Jail. It's a book that really does stretch the emotions. I also enjoyed the way the underlying themes of freedom, loyalty, love (lots of love) and betrayal played out through the narrative.

It’s the way the facts are brought together that really causes me to have doubts. There is a huge amount of self-aggrandisement in the way the lead character, who adopts the alias of Lindsay Ford (Lin), is portrayed. The language throughout is flowery in the extreme, and the text is liberally sprinkled with hackneyed phrases, clichés and truisms. But the overriding flaw here is that this fictional text, written in the first person, reads like the autobiography it isn't. It confused my emotions: I wanted to admire Roberts/Lin and marvel at the acts of heroism and charity but I couldn't. And my final criticism is that it feels like a book that needed a good editor: it's way too long and I felt that some sections dragged on interminably.

Overall, don't regret the time I invested in this book. Despite the doubts I’ve expressed I did find it very entertaining and I feel I learnt a good deal about India and it's people. I might even be persuaded to seek out the follow-up book that's kicking around now… we’ll see.
Profile Image for Marnie.
101 reviews13 followers
February 10, 2017
Have you ever been in a relationship that you were just done with but you were hoping they would end it and so you suffer through, day after day, rolling your eyes every time that person does that THING that you HATE and, yah, it was kind of fun at first but if they keep doing that THING that you HATE, you are going to end up saying something really mean and you really don't want to do that because they mean well and are nice but they just drive you up the wall?

You know what you need to do? You need to save both of you more trouble and pain and just dump that person already, and frankly, that's how I feel about this book, so even though I'm nearly at the end, I can't take it anymore. I roll my eyes every few minutes, I dread turning the audiobook on. It had it's good moments and its merits but this is NOT the book for me.

This book is billed as a "semi-autobiographical" story. I'm not sure what to make of that, though I guess it's more honest than some authors are. The story feels a bit like a diary. While the protagonist is almost always the center of any story, this one is particularly so. The main character interacts with other people, and we get some back story on them, but they are always half hearted accounts and they only serve as conduits for learning more about the narrator. This format, wherein you only ever see as far as the main character comprehends the situation, can work, but it's done so lazily, here.

Throughout the book, the main character meets someone and then says something like "I don't know why but I _____ the person right away." Lazy. Lazy lazy lazy writing. People feel that way, but authors owe it to their readers to make THEM feel as though they don't know why but they ____ the person. The most atrocious example of this lazy writing is the love-at-first-sight nonsense. I do genuinely believe that people feel intense attractions to certain other people at the moment they see them, but, again, it's the authors job to paint a picture that tells us what he sees in that person. At best, he gives us a portrait of a woman he thinks is beautiful and that he doesn't understand, which means the only thing we feel is that there's some pretty woman with no personality and no complexity to speak of and we are supposed to believe she's worth pining over. These many people the author interacts with, drive the story forward and serve as motivation but, at least for me, I never understood why. I don't cry why people die, I don't feel bad when people leave. I don't know why one woman is more or less desirable than another. I am simply told that this is how the character feels.

While this issue struck me from the outset, there is a lot in the story that is interesting and compelling. I've only had a superficial, tourist experience with India, so learning more about everyday life and people there is wonderful, but just as I'd start to sink into the story, I'd be jarred by my second peeve about this book. The author, over and over again, stops the story to make some sort of metaphor about how some event or emotion is like some sort of grandiose, most important thing that has ever been (and pretty much everything is the most something that has ever something'ed). This isn't a case where he makes a particular point, once, maybe twice, that is central to the story. Nope, it's trite little sayings like "Truth is a bully that we all pretend to like" and "Silence is the tortured mans revenge" and "Guilt is the hilt of the knife that we use on ourselves" and on and on it goes, breaking up the flow of the story so the author can impress you with how clever he is. Like exclamation points and adverbs, this sort of mental masturbation needs to be applied sparingly, but it's constant and it wasn't too long before I started to get so focused on when the next detour down poetry lane would be that I simply stopped hearing the story, altogether. On the other hand, if you want to get really piss-drunk, try having a shot every time he pulls one of these gems out. You'll need your stomach pumped.

I'll concede that my concerns might be largely a stylistic preference. There are certainly a fair number of people who thought this story was wonderful and poetic. It's not for me, though, and I'm happier for admitting defeat on this. I'll never know how the story ends and I'm fine with that. I give it 2 stars because there really were times when I was engrossed in the story.
20 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2007
Gripping story. Beautiful descriptions of India and its people. Rhetorical dialogue provides provocative one-line philosophical nuggets:

"Civilization, after all, is defined by what we forbid, more than what we permit."

"The worst thing about corruption as a system of government is that it works so well."

"A lot of bad stuff in the world wasn't really that bad until someone tried to change it."

"The truth is a bully that everyone pretends to like."

"A dream is where a wish and a fear meet. A nightmare is when the wish and fear are the same exact thing."

"Poverty and pride are devoted blood brothers until one, always and inevitably, kills the other."

"Fear and guilt are the dark angels that haunt rich men."

"There's no meanness too spiteful or too cruel when we hate someone for all the wrong reasons."

"There is no act of faith more beautiful than the generosity of the very poor."

"Justice is a judgment that is both fair and forgiving... Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we try to save them."

"The burden of happiness can only be relieved by the balm of suffering."

"Some men like you less the more they owe you. Some men only really begin to like you when they find themselves in your debt."

"A politician is someone who promises a bridge even when there's no water."

"Trouble is the only property that poor people like us are allowed to own."

"I don't know what scares me more, the madness that smashes people down or their ability to endure it."

"The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid men, and one hundred million cowards."

"The best qualities [of people] called up quickly in a crisis are very often the hardest to find in a prosperous calm."

"If babies had wings, he's be the kind [of person] to pull them off."

"Despotism despises nothing so much as righteousness in its victims."

"When greed meets control, you get a black market."

"It isn't a secret unless keeping it hurts."

"If you make your heart a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself."

"Fate puts us together with all the people, one by one, who show us what we could and shouldn't let ourselves become."

"It is possible to do the wrong thing for the right reasons."

"Men reveal what they think when they look away, and what they feel when they hesitate. With women, it's the other way around."

"Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make us buy things."

"The most precious gift you can bring your lover is your suffering."

"Cruel laughter is the way cowards cry when they're not alone, and causing pain is how they grieve."

"There's nothing so depressing as good advice."

"Depression only happens to people who don't know how to be sad."

"Love cannot be tested. ...love is born in that part of us that does not die."

"If we all learned what we should learn, we wouldn't need love at all."

"If we envy someone for the right reasons, we're halfway to wisdom."

"You are not a man until you give your love, truly and freely, to a child. And you are not a good man until you earn the love, truly and freely, of a child in return."

"A king is a bad enemy, a worse friend, and a fatal family relation."

"I sometimes think that the size of our happiness is inversely proportional to the size of our house."

"What characterizes the human race more? Cruelty or the capacity to feel shame for it?"

"We live on because we can love, and love because we can forgive."

"I smoked [cigarettes] in those days because, like everyone else in the world who smokes, I wanted to die at least as much as I wanted to live."
Profile Image for Apoorva.
163 reviews674 followers
February 17, 2019
‘Shantaram’ is about the life of an escaped Australian convict with the alias ‘Lin’ who comes to India in order to evade his torturous fate in the prison. After landing in Bombay (now Mumbai), he befriends his tour guide Prabhakar and other expatriates who are involved in some minor illegal crimes in the city. As a man on a run, he tries to make sense of his life while he travels across the spiritual city.

On his journey, the events and people around him cause his life to take a wild turn. He embarks on a series of dangerous adventures, whether it be moving to the poorest slum in Bombay, having intellectual conversations with the mafia members and getting involved in illegal activities, working for Bollywood, serving in prison, fighting in someone else’s war, being fascinated with the beautiful and elusive Karla all the while being utterly clueless about his goals.

Eventually, the protagonist Lin learns the most-used languages in Bombay and gets friendly with the people around him. When he goes to a trip in a small Maharashtrian village, a hometown of his friend Prabhakar, he gets acquainted with their lifestyle and starts living with them for a while. He is given the name Shantaram, meaning the man of peace, which resonates with him and seems to signal about his distant fate.

First off, this was such an amazing journey! It’s part autobiographical and part fiction as stated by the author. After finishing the book, I dug into the old interviews and stuff to find out how much of it is fact and fiction. He said that the major events were based on true story while the characters were an amalgamation of different personalities. Anyway, it might be hard to pinpoint the credibility, but one thing I can say for sure is it’s a beautiful and well written story.

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”

The writing is the novel is absolutely mesmerizing and poignant. It captures all the minute intricacies in the gesture, language, values of the Indian culture seen from a foreigner’s perspective. In fact, we see the protagonist experience a little bit of a cultural shock in the beginning and we see how he comes to understand and assimilate it. Also, the descriptions of the city and the events are so vivid and colorful that it captivated me. I absolutely loved reading it.

The characters in the story feel so real and vulnerable. I found them so interesting in their own way, most of them were immigrants with their own reasons for seeking asylum elsewhere. It takes place over a huge expanse of the Bombay where we get to know about a lot of people in the slum and also the gangsters in the mafia. I loved the protagonist’s interactions with the mafia council especially the boss. It was fun getting to learn more about how the mafia operates on various levels in the city.

This book covers a wide variety of themes like friendship, love, exile, revenge, crime, poverty, communication. I feel like there’s a lot for everyone. A lot of events happen due to which the protagonist’s life changes a lot and we see him come to a sort of understanding of himself. The book had a witty writing and I found so many profound, ‘quotable’ quotes. Sometimes, I found things to be a little cheesy but I don’t mind it. The story was amazing!

Even though I was intimidated by the sheer size of the book in the beginning, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It has a great potential to be an amazing TV series. Hope it happens. Apart from that, I highly recommend reading the book.

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Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 15 books1,432 followers
November 22, 2019
The author says the book is based on his real life. He had one crazy life. Heroin addition, bank robbery, prison break, escape to India. Its worth reading this book just for his descriptions of India and the culture from his perspective. The way they build the sky scrapers, how the building has its own subculture (the builders) living next to it is amazing. This book is well worth a look. It's a tad bit long, but interesting.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews520 followers
August 13, 2014
I have spent the last two weeks in Roberts's seductive, chaotic, slum filled, audacious Bombay, full of vibrant, wonderful, charismatic characters. This is a grand, sprawling, intelligent, autobiographical novel, elegantly written and splendidly evocative of an India I would otherwise never know.
As I sit here trying to decide how to best sum up just what this novel is about I realize that it is about everthing. All of life's many lessons are here in this huge, sweeping, monumental story; but mostly it is about love and forgiveness and one man's searing search for redemption.
Above all, perhaps, as Pat Conroy says "it is a grand work of extraordinary art, a thing of exceptional beauty".
Do not let the size deter you, I was hooked from the very first sentence and stayed that way through to the final word. Simply one of the most thrilling and touching novels I have ever read.
Profile Image for Laura.
44 reviews23 followers
December 4, 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.

Profile Image for Greg.
1,106 reviews1,802 followers
December 6, 2011
I feel like a bit of an asshole for giving this three stars.

Most of my goodreads friends have given this five stars, some four and one person hated it, but it feels like this is a fairly universally loved book. What is my problem?

Even outside of the little goodreads universe, people love this book. Jonathan Carroll tells me in his blurb that I'm, "either heartless or dead or both" for remaining untouched by this book (but that is not really true, I was touched by this book, and I have a great deal of respect for the author for living this tale, more on this in a bit). Customers have raved about. I've been asked to recommend other books like this one to people. It sits perennially on the favorites table at work, co-workers stopped to tell me they either liked it or wanted to read it if they saw it in my hand while I was coming or going from the store.

And it's so shiny! Can't I give it an extra star for it's golden radiant glow?

If I were judging the life of the narrator, which I assume is also pretty much the life of the author, I'd give it five stars. Wow, you did all of this stuff? Pretty much everything in this book I'd be too much of lazy and scared fuck to do for myself. And then you wrote this novel while in a brutal prison and the manuscript pages are stained in your blood? Guards destroyed one of the original drafts of the book on you? I can barely wrap my head around what it would be like to go through all of that on top of living the life described in this book. Five stars, all the way (note to someone else, there should be a goodreads-esque site where people can give star ratings to other peoples' lives, that would catch on, right?)!

Which, makes me feel like an even bigger asshole for only giving the book three stars.

Part of the problem for me was that I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but as soon as I put the book down there I never felt compelled to pick it up and read it. I'd read on my commute and on break, but rarely would I read it at home. And even when I took a break from it on the train back to the city from upstate New York, I got my distracted watching the little arrow move on my phone's gps map showing my progress through the lower Hudson Valley and forgot to go back to reading the book on that trip for the last hour or so of my train ride. When I'd pick up the book to read it, I'd enjoy what I read, but nothing ever grabbed me with the desire to plow through the book.

But is it so important that you read every book at warp-speed?

No, but I want to feel compelled to go on. The only compulsion I really felt was, yeah I should pick up the book if I'm ever going to get through the 933 pages and get to read some other books. It also didn't help that I started reading this while I had a couple of other books sort of going on, too. One of them that dog evolution book that I was really not enjoying.

While the events in the story were fascinating, especially since I believed them to be pretty much true, and because this guy is leading a life I couldn't imagine leading myself and being a much better person than I ever am even when he is at his worst; while all of this is true to how I felt about the content, the actually format of the book got on my nerves after awhile. It was too episodic, sort of like Dickens (whom I liked quite a bit in my only attempt to read him (shameful but true), but it's a style I can enjoy when it's in the past, but which I don't really like in contemporary novels. Too often the novel read like this: Start of chapter, deep platitude (like all door ways are passages to the infinite, meet up with the character who is going to be focal in this chapter, usually in a serendipity manner, something happens that the narrator doesn't want to do and is exhorted to try by a character ('touch his belly', 'I don't want to.', 'no, come on touch his belly, yaar', 'no, i don't want to touch his belly', 'c'mon you sister fucker yaar touch the belly,' (go on for a bit in this way) and then he'll touch the belly (or ride the horse, or drink the weird drink, or whatever someone is trying to get him to do) and he'll find he enjoys it or takes some very valuable life lesson from it; then the narrator will do something, and have the mini-adventure of the chapter and meet some other people along the way. Which is a fine way of formatting a novel, but it started to feel really repetitive to me, and while the chapters linked together and events influenced other events I didn't feel like anything was being built by all the stories, it was just a story being told, and that is a good thing and it's a fairly entertaining story but I'm a snob who likes his 900 plus page novels to be more than just a linear story, or if it is going to be just a story I want it grab me by the throat and make me want to go on and loss sleep finding out what happens next.

My other 'beef' with the novel is that it disregarded the show don't tell rule of writing. I normally don't even think about this rule when I'm reading, but I started to realize about a third of the way through the book that almost everything I knew about the characters and the type of people they are I knew because I'd been told that is the way they were by the narrator. Very little of their actions showed me the type of person they were, they might say and do interesting things but the way I was supposed to feel about the character was also given to me by some exposition of the narrator.

But Greg, have you ever written a novel while being locked up in a punishment unit of an Australian prison?


I hate when people say this, but I'm going to say it anyway and hate myself for saying it. I think the novel could have been shorter. I think that there was a clunkiness to certain parts of the novel. I'm thinking especially in the last hundred or so pages, the pages I forced myself to sit down and read and not do anything else until I was done with them today.

I've been kind of critical of the book because I'm trying to justify my own like, not love for the book. I think my own feelings towards the book are sort of like the enigmatic character Karla's feelings towards other people in the novel, I like it but you can't get me to say I love it.
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,337 followers
October 4, 2018
I realised that I'd already 'reviewed' this work by way of a reply I'd made to a recommendation (by Andy S). So I've simply copy/pasted that same reply here: I can understand the 'Marmite' love-it-or-hate-it axiom; the book has literary mood swings.

I read Shantaram a while back. A sprawling novel favoured by backpackers the world over. It polarises opinion; readers either love or hate it. It's overly self-righteous and puts you in mind of Walter Mitty, but the author has certainly suffered for his art, creating a novel that is difficult to ignore.
Profile Image for Lara.
52 reviews15 followers
August 26, 2008
I loved, loved the first part of this book. The author's description of arriving in Mumbai is so similar to my experience - the sites and smells, staying in Colaba, the restaurants visited - it really brought back my trip to a city I loved.

However, I've had to put this one down for a bit of a break. I just have the feeling Gregory David Roberts is pretty far up his own ass and I'm not sure I'm buying what he's selling.

What's making it hard to just sit back and enjoy this book is Robert's description of specific experiences - usually ones outside the usual North American experience (staying in a remote village, the Standing Babas, living in a slum, etc.) seem a bit far fetched to me. He goes to the village and Ack! Flood! While seeing the Babas - Eeek! Knife attack! And his first day in the slum? Fire! Fire! Fire!

To be sure, there are a lot of stories and cultural experiences to be had in another country, particularly in one like India. I'm just not sure if I buy that Roberts personally experienced all of them.

When I was in Agra, seeing the Taj Mahal, we were told that the towers surrounding the Taj used to be open to the public, but that they became a popular spot for love sick suicides, and are now closed. I have a feeling that if Roberts heard this story, he would have been standing at the foot of the tower when a lovelorn jumper took his last leap -- and would have an even barfier description for it than "a lovelorn jumper took his last leap"...

I don't know why I'm having trouble with this book because the stories are interesting. Maybe if I didn't feel like Roberts was trying to convince me that this is TOTALLY COMPLETELY TRUE YOU GUYS as opposed to a more fictionalized memoir, maybe I could, but for now it's back on the shelf.

Profile Image for Perry.
629 reviews496 followers
December 11, 2017
2017 Recipient of my Poison Apple --- Looks juicy on the surface, but reading just 100 of more than 900 pages of the blech, gaudy, flowery-to-the-nth prose is poisonous (see below)

"Her eyes pale with moonlight. Her eyes the green of water lilies after the rain. Her long hair black as forest river stones. Her hair that was like holding the night itself in the wrap of my fingers. Her lips starred with incandescent light, lips of camellia petal softness, warmed with secret whispers."
"grieving tears boiled up in me, relentless as the gathering tide that slapped against the seawall, but I couldn't cry them--those tears--and I felt that I was drowning in a sorrow that was bigger than the heart that tried to hold it."
The story of an Australian prison escapee (imprisoned for armed robbery to support his heroin addiction) who works his way up from the slums of Mumbai to right hand man to the don of a mob of Indian Muslims. What seems a fascinating story to be told in around 400 pages becomes a perfect illustration of both the reason for the writing maxim "show don't tell," and what happens when a first-time writer publishes a novel without the benefit of a decent editor.

For example, instead of showing through actions and dialogue how he developed feelings for his main love interest, a Swedish/American named Karla, and what she did to make him love her (umm, seems to me nothing but being beautiful), he must describe in cringing, gushing prose how much he loves her: over the moon and larger than any star in our universe--every friggin' time he sees her.

The romance becomes wincingly melodramatic. And it and the rest of the story devolve into the narrator's long-winded, overwrought, self-righteous and repetitive tribute, at its worst, to himself, and, at its best, to the people of Mumbai.

By page 700, I was reaching for the anti-nausea meds. Right now, I feel like I just drank a dozen cans of sweetened condensed milk:
I heard his voice passing from his chest to mine like ocean sonancies, sounding and resounding, wave on wave, through shores of tight-wet sand at night. Eyes closed and clinging to him, I floated on the dark water of the sorrowing I'd done for him....
Profile Image for MacK.
591 reviews192 followers
December 19, 2007
I had been told that this was a beautiful love story. And it was; in between the parts where he mopes over lost loves so much that you feel like you're back in a middle school girl gripefest.

I had been told that this was a philosophically profound book. And it was; except for the passages where Roberts smug knowledge of "complexity" made you want to punch every philosophy major you ever knew right in the face as a proxy.

I had been told that this was a riveting page turner. And it was; until he gets so wrapped up in the history of goats/camels/horses and the kalishnekov rifle, that you feel like he's holding one to your head daring you abandon the 700 pages you've already read.

I had been told that it was a great way for expat citizens in India to reflect on their place in the diverse culture of the land. It was. There isn't a qualifying statement here. It actually was a great way, as an expat citizen in India, to reflect on my place in the diverse culture of the land. His insouciance--despite the hardened criminal overtones--is reminscent of how we all feel upon those first staggered steps off the plane. His admiration and love for the people and their language and the locales all around mirror the infectious nature of the people and place I've come to love while living here. The sites and sounds of Mumbai are thrillingly memorable, even for tourists, Leopolds, Colaba, The Taj Hotel, Haji Ali Mosque, and on and on.

It's understandable that a first novel is so inconsistent. It's unfortunate that this inconsistency is spread out over 900+ pages. Turning otherwise negligible faults into major detractions from the merits of an otherwise enjoyable, but not superb book.
Profile Image for Chuckell.
67 reviews12 followers
January 7, 2008
This book bugs.

Of course, I knew that I could have defeated the stoned, terrifying swordsman with just my fists. . . .

Fortunately, my friends had given me a gigantic first-aid kit before I left, so I had enough medicine to cure the scores of burn victims. . . .

The guards had given me--the dangerous convict doing hard labor--an extra-long, heavy-duty extension cord that I was able use to scale the prison wall. . . .

I saw in his eyes the shining crowning glory of a soul at utmost peace and his radiant love flowed into my heart of hearts. . . .

I had no idea what to say--I was utterly at a loss. So I said exactly the right thing and everybody laughed. . . .

I was lonely and terrified in the huge crowd. So I went up to the scariest person in the place and made friends with him . . .

What a crock.

This book would be a lot easier to take if it weren't for the bogus bio the author offers, which is clearly supposed to make gullible readers believe that this fantasy is somehow autobiographical.
Profile Image for Ankit Garg.
251 reviews342 followers
August 29, 2019
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a huge yet hard-to-put-down novel. The blurb says it is based on the life of the author, but is also part fiction. Several seemingly unnatural events corroborate the fact. Fiction or not, the book kept me hooked for the entire duration.

The simplistic writing style results in a near-perfect narration of the epic story that is Shantaram. Various intricacies, including the subtle ones, that make up the Indian culture are beautifully captured. The detailed description of Mumbai, both literally and figuratively, is sure to make the reader fall in love with the city, given they aren't already in love with it.

The characters seem as real as they can get (special mention to Prabaker, the protagonist's friend). The theory related to the Big Bang, the matter, and how everything in the universe is approaching towards a common goal, is mesmerizing.

Most (if not all) of the emotions known to man are covered in the story. It is an epic tale of love and friendship, of crime and poverty, and of revenge and exile.

The prose is full of wise quotes throughout. It makes one reflect on the way we look at life. Few instances:

"wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn’t wise."

"The truth is a bully we all pretend to like."

"What we call cowardice is often just another name for being taken by surprise, and courage is seldom any better than simply being well prepared."

"And I'd learned, the hard way, that sometimes, even with the purest intentions, we make things worse when we do our best to make things better."

"the cost of knowing love, is sometimes greater than any heart would willingly pay."

"I think wisdom is very overrated. Wisdom is just cleverness, with all the guts kicked out of it."

"I was too young, then, to know that dead lovers are the toughest rivals."

"Guilt is the hilt of the knife that we use on ourselves, and love is often the blade; but it's worry that keeps the knife sharp, and worry that gets most of us, in the end."

"It's isn't a secret, unless keeping it hurts."

"Hate is a very resilient thing, you know. Hate is a survivor."

"it's impossible to despise someone you honestly pity, and to shun someone you truly love."

"People haven't stopped believing in love. They haven't stopped wanting to be in love. They just don't believe in a happy ending anymore. They still believe in love, and falling in love, but they know now that... they know that romances almost never end as well as they begin."

"It's a fact of being in love that we often pay no attention whatsoever to the substance of what a lover says, while being intoxicated to ecstasy by the way it's said."

"love cannot be tested. Honesty can be tested and loyalty. But there is not test for love. Love goes on forever, once it begins, even if we come to hate the one we love."

"'Sometimes it is necessary to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. The important thing is to be sure that our reasons are right, and that we admit the wrong-that we do not lie to ourselves, and convince ourselves that what we do is right."

"You can't kill love. You can't even kill it with hate. You can kill in-love, and loving, and even loveliness. You can kill them all, or numb them into dense, leaden regret, but you can't kill love itself. Love is the passionate search for a truth other than your own; and once you feel it, honestly and completely, love is forever. Every act of love, every moment of the heart reaching out, is a part of the universal good: it's a part of God, or what we call God, and it can never die."

"Love is a one-way street. Love, like respect isn't something you get; it's something you give."

"It's bad, loving someone you can't forgive."

Looking forward to watch the movie based on this book, and then on to its sequel.

Verdict: A must read.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,845 reviews34.9k followers
June 15, 2015

On the bottom of page 229: "And it was quiet, in those dark, thinking moments: quiet enough to hear sweat droplets from my sorrowed face fall upon the page, one after another, each wet circle weeping outward into the words fair...forgiving...punish...and save..."

I give Shantaram 4.5 stars. I understand it took the author 13 years to write. (given the substantial amount of details to remember from a life most of us are thankful to never have experienced), I can understand why.

How did the man have 'time' to write?

Gregory David Roberts is wise intelligent man/writer/....and very unique & wonderful human being! (forgiveness comes into thought): Good people have done wrong things....
These same people have done GREAT things....

An interesting life this man had!
He needed to write a book...
I needed to read it...

Ask me if I cried? (YES...but only on 1 page --out of 936 pages). I don't think anyone would guess the part I cried in either. However: for my friends who read this book...
Come back and ask me....I'll tell you later!

Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,664 followers
September 10, 2008
I haven't enjoyed reading a book this much in a long time. Even though it was over 900 pages, I didn't want it to end. I wanted to know more about Lin's life and just keep hearing about his insights and about India and whatever he wanted to talk about. This book is a semi-autobiographical story of a man who escapes prison in Australia and escapes to Bombay and lives there for many years. First he sets up a clinic in the slums and then he works for the Bombay mafia and in the meantime, he just has a way of describing people and life that is brilliant and endearing.

In the way of criticism, I think there are parts of the book that could have been edited and taken out and there are other parts that read more as a mystery novel or an adventure than a memoir. There are also parts that sound a bit self-helpish. Also, there were a few lines (maybe about 6 out of the 900 pages) where I had to roll my eyes because they were cliched or just cheesy.

But in general, the positive way outweigh the negative. It was beautiful--the writing and the images and the insights. I would read it again and recommend it to anyone.

I discovered the book in Bali. A few of our friends were reading it and it was turning into a cult classic and you couldn't find a single copy on the whole island. Internationally, I think the book is gaining some steam. It's such a unique book. I am so glad I found it.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,926 followers
February 14, 2012
I still have trouble imagining that a convict could write like this. The real question is posed to us by the fact of the book than the contents of the book. The contents are spectacular of course, but the fact of its existence and of the nature of the author for me is an indictment on society par compare.
Profile Image for Nicholas.
31 reviews2 followers
October 28, 2009
ok... I'm about 3/4 of the way through and this book needs to end now.
Thought I'd hit the wall sooner, but the story pulls you along quite well for the most part.
But my limit has been reached. This book does NOT need to be SO long. If you only took out the dopey description of Karla's eyes he dribbles on with every time he mentions her, you'd knock off a few thousand words to start with. We get it dude. She has nice eyes. Get over it. Yes, yes, they are like a hidden lagoon at dusk, shimmering pools of emeralds... whatever, get on with the story.
Also you could trim this baby down by getting rid of the author talking himself up every few pages... Yes, yes, you are fit and you know how to punch people. Good on you. I see now why Russel Crow wanted to play this character in the movie re-make. It's the perfect fit for rusty's ego.
This is a good story, told well for the most part. But what happened to the editor? You know, the objective person who tells you you've got your head up your arse and to get rid of say... 10,000 unnecessary words?
Maybe 'Linbaba' set upon them with a karate stance and plunged his poweful weapon-like fists into them while starring into their blazing crystal blue eyes filled with terror untill they relented and let him publish whatever he damn well wanted...?
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