best book ever – Shantaram

On the recommendation of Dave Adlard, I downloaded Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts from — cost about US$12. Unabridged, 944 pages, that’s 43 hours!

I cherished every minute, listening on my iPod Nano while hiking this summer.

Dave knew I would love the setting of the book — Bombay, India and Afghanistan — and its epic themes.

Crime and punishment, passion and loyalty, betrayal and redemption are only a few of the ingredients in Shantaram, a massive, over-the-top, mostly autobiographical novel.

Shantaram is the name given Mr. Lindsay, or Linbaba, the larger-than-life hero. It means “man of God’s peace,” which is what the Indian people know of Lin.

What they do not know is that prior to his arrival in Bombay he escaped from an Australian prison where he had begun serving a 19-year sentence. He served two years and leaped over the wall. He was imprisoned for a string of armed robberies performed to support his heroin addiction, which started when his marriage fell apart and he lost custody of his daughter.

All of that is enough for several lifetimes, but for Greg Roberts, that’s only the beginning.

The convict flees to India to escape his past, the first day “meeting the two people who will largely influence his fate in the city. One is a young tour guide, Prabaker, whose gifts include a large smile and an unstoppably joyful heart.”

Prabaker is one of the great characters of literature, I feel.

“The second person he meets is Karla, a beautiful Swiss-American woman with sea-green eyes and a circle of expatriate friends. Lin’s love for Karla—and her mysterious inability to love in return—gives the book its central tension.”

It’s a massive read. A book of philosophy. A book which can change your life.

The narrator Humphrey Bower was the highlight for me. He is fantastic at dozens of different accents, helping me keep straight the many characters of different ethnicities.

A Novel

Shantaram: A Novel

Shantaram is a novel. But the parallels to the author’s life are striking. Roberts was an escaped Australian convict. He fled to India. He was recaptured in 1990 and returned to Australia to serve his sentence. And write.

The book will certainly appeal more to men than women. Ladies should wait for the movie — scheduled for release in 2008 starring Johnny Depp.

Even better news, for me, is that Roberts is writing a sequel.

I can hardly wait.

UPDATE: Rick’s favourite books of all time

3 thoughts on “best book ever – Shantaram

  1. Brian

    Sounds like a massive read, Rick. But can it be as good as that recommendation from long ago – I think the name was “Sheblumi”? BSF, I will put this on my list. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: The Mountain Shadow – Gregory David Roberts –

  3. Pingback: Shantaram – season 1 – Rick McCharles

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