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(Shantaram #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  138,584 ratings  ·  11,965 reviews
"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 set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who f
Kindle Edition, 946 pages
Published October 13th 2004 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2003)
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4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  138,584 ratings  ·  11,965 reviews

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Petal X
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' in ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dimwitted psuedo-philosophers, the author's mother
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 sayi ...more
Jan 29, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no-one
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 revie
Amy Luke
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who reads
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 somet ...more
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 o
Jen Padgett Bohle
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 pseudowi ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, favourites
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 past ...more
May 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
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
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people going to India
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 nightma
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 g
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 pa ...more
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
Nov 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: Arah-Leah Hay
Shelves: i-said, top, killer-prose, 2011
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 mo
Andrew Smith
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 with me; except this book is clearly based heavily on the author’s life and 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
Jul 31, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, i-give-up
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 descrip
Kevin Ansbro
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Backpackers, idealists, jailbirds.
Shelves: adventure, escapism
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 h
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Apoorva by: Ajay Singh
‘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 emb
Aug 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
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."
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 p
Elyse Walters
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 hav
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ha ...more
Jack Mottram
Nov 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hideous purple prose, every plot twist signposted with clunking obviousness, padded out with pseudo-mystic 'philosophy', riddled with obscene poverty-licking and Orientalism. It's only use is as a barometer: view anyone who enjoyed this with suspicion.
Riku Sayuj
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's taken me 3 attempts in 4 years to finish this book - I cannot stress this fact enough as I'm one of those obsessive compulsive readers and every time I leave a book unfinished, I swear I can feel it staring back accusingly from my bookshelf until I'm compelled to pick it up again. And having finally turned the last page, I've figured out why this book is both highly recommended as well as painfully difficult to finish.

The problem very simply is this - the first and last parts of the book ar
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 30, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." Dorothy Parker

Throughout the first 150 pages, I was willing to give Shantaram the benefit of the doubt, seeing as I embarked upon it with a heart opened and crushed by A Fine Balance, and hoping it would achieve something similar. The latter is an altogether brilliant novel about India, set approximately in the same time (or just prior), and one that is so vastly superior to this in style and substance that i
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Peter Chelk.
Whew! This whirlwind of a book was a reader's feast. The recurring themes of forgiving, choosing love over hate, recognizing each person's ability to change his fate, and "doing the wrong thing for the right reasons" can make this book read like a self-help book or confessional visit at times. Yet, it is also a lush (and sometimes overwritten) swashbuckling adventure, an ambient study of Bombay, a crime novel, a doomed love story as well as a philosophical travelogue akin to "On the Road" or "Ze ...more
Oct 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
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 10 years have passed before
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Gregory David Roberts is an Australian author, most noted for his novel Shantaram. He was a heroin addict and convicted bank robber who escaped from Pentridge Prison and fled to India where he lived for ten years.

Roberts lived in Melbourne, Germany and France, and finally returned to Mumbai, where he set up charitable foundations to assist the city's poor with health care coverage. Roberts was reu

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