December 03, 2011

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

There is a little bit of truth in this novel. The author Gregory David Roberts, took elements from his own life and placed them into his main character Lin. So one has to wonder, how much is true and how much is fiction.

Shantaram features Lin, an escaped convict from Australia who goes to Bombay to gain his freedom. Once there, he starts out just exploring the area and meeting new friends and gradually moves to the slums where he becomes a doctor of sorts and cares for the poor people there. But being an escaped convict the draw of crime is strong to him and he starts working in other pursuits that get him into more trouble than he could ever imagine. Combine that with his love for Karla, a myserious woman living in Bombay as well and he isn't quite sure what he wants with his life. Deep down he wants to do something good, but he finds it hard to set himself on the right path.

Lin is Roberts. Both escaped convicts who have traveled far they have an altruistic streak that sometimes makes them do bad things for good reasons. As a recovered junkie, Lin to is susceptible to weakness. And he faces many struggles within the novel. I do have to say that I couldn't see what he saw in Karla. I didn't find her particularly fascinating as a character. And the group of friends he hung out with, they were awfully philosophical for criminals. I'm not saying that all criminals aren't intelligent, but it seemed odd to me the particular dynamics of this group. I also should say that I didn't really feel a particular connection to any character in this novel, but it was still interesting to read about them.

Its a long meandering plot. Honestly, the book can get too long in some ways but it was still pretty good. It felt like it could all happen in real life, which given the author's past, could be very true. It does make me wonder about Bombay though, from this book you would assume that the whole place is just crime ridden and black market and somehow I doubt that its all that way. The story was heartfelt for sure and the realism made it a good read. I felt like I was there and that's a testament to Robert's writing.

An interesting book that reads real. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in different cultures or the struggle of everyday life.

Copyright 2003
933 pages

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