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Shantaram: A Novel Paperback – September 29, 2005

2,233 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Shantaram Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 peformed 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.

He arrives in Bombay with little money, an assumed name, false papers, an untellable past, and no plans for the future. Fortunately, he meets Prabaker right away, a sweet, smiling man who is a street guide. He takes to Lin immediately, eventually introducing him to his home village, where they end up living for six months. When they return to Bombay, they take up residence in a sprawling illegal slum of 25,000 people and Linbaba becomes the resident "doctor." With a prison knowledge of first aid and whatever medicines he can cadge from doing trades with the local Mafia, he sets up a practice and is regarded as heaven-sent by these poor people who have nothing but illness, rat bites, dysentery, and anemia. He also meets Karla, an enigmatic Swiss-American woman, with whom he falls in love. Theirs is a complicated relationship, and Karla’s connections are murky from the outset.

Roberts is not reluctant to wax poetic; in fact, some of his prose is downright embarrassing. Throughought the novel, however, all 944 pages of it, every single sentence rings true. He is a tough guy with a tender heart, one capable of what is judged criminal behavior, but a basically decent, intelligent man who would never intentionally hurt anyone, especially anyone he knew. He is a magnet for trouble, a soldier of fortune, a picaresque hero: the rascal who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. His story is irresistible. Stay tuned for the prequel and the sequel. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of this massive, thrillingly undomesticated potboiler, a young Australian man bearing a false New Zealand passport that gives his name as "Lindsay" flies to Bombay some time in the early '80s. On his first day there, Lindsay meets 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. Through Prabaker, Lindsay learns Marathi (a language not often spoken by gora, or foreigners), gets to know village India and settles, for a time, in a vast shantytown, operating an illicit free clinic. 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. "Linbaba's" life in the slum abruptly ends when he is arrested without charge and thrown into the hell of Arthur Road Prison. Upon his release, he moves from the slum and begins laundering money and forging passports for one of the heads of the Bombay mafia, guru/sage Abdel Khader Khan. Eventually, he follows Khader as an improbable guerrilla in the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. There he learns about Karla's connection to Khader and discovers who set him up for arrest. Roberts, who wrote the first drafts of the novel in prison, has poured everything he knows into this book and it shows. It has a heartfelt, cinemascope feel. If there are occasional passages that would make the very angels of purple prose weep, there are also images, plots, characters, philosophical dialogues and mysteries that more than compensate for the novel's flaws. A sensational read, it might well reproduce its bestselling success in Australia here.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 944 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312330537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312330538
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,233 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gregory David Roberts was born in Melbourne, Australia. A gifted writer and student, he became addicted to heroin when his marriage collapsed and he lost the custody of his daughter. When he committed a series of robberies with an imitation pistol, he was described as the Gentleman Bandit. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison, he escaped and journeyed to New Zealand, Asia, Africa, and Europe. For ten of those fugitive years he lived in Bombay-where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured in Germany, he served out his sentence there and in Australian prisons. Upon his release, he established a successful multimedia company, and since the international publication of Shantaram, he is a full-time writer, at home in several countries.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

549 of 570 people found the following review helpful By Michael Zwerdling on January 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have, in the last three years, read literally hundreds of books of fiction. I can quite easily list the three bodies of work which were the most enjoyable, instructive, and otherwise influential to me. In order they are: 1) the entire 21 book series of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin historic naval literature (probably the best series of books I have ever read), 2) the three books of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and the System of the World), each book being better than the previous one, and 3) Shantaram.

Shantaram is a love story from start to finish: love of mankind, love of friends, love of a woman, love of a country, love of a city, love of an adversary, love of a way of life, love of a people, love of adventure, love of a father, and, most apparent, love for the reader.

The protagonist (based on the writer himself) is a complex adventurer with a deep soul and a past which, though you and I can never fully appreciate it unless we have done similar things (highly unlikely...few of us have ever been tortured, for example, or kicked a heroin habit twice) is made accessible to us, complete with its feelings and lessons.

The writing is superb, the characters have depth, the setting descriptions place you right there, the plots are intriguing, and the emotions, including humor, I cannot adequately describe, since I have nowhere near the skills of the writer, Gregory Roberts.

I cannot recommend the book more highly. Please do yourself a favor and read it.
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537 of 578 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Shantaram is one of those books that you wait to find for five years, even a decade. You know how it is. You read a really great book and, on coming to the end page, immediately want to find another book just as good to fill its place. So you go out looking for such a book, but cannot find it. You look for a week, then a month, then months turn to years, and finally,5 to 10 years later, you finally find a book that is a really great read.

Shantaram is such a book. It is an A+ story that captivates you on page one and sustains the pace through every one of its 920 pages. It overflows with a wide range of characters of every moral persuasion, good and bad. And it is rich with the big themes on the nature of humanity and the human struggle to survive and thrive, for better or worse. In addition, the actual writing is superb, descriptive and often beautiful, without ever descending into sentimental or maudlin. Roberts always manages to find the right phrase or word to bring into clear focus the incredible wide range of experiences he paints. I might add, this is one book that I do not want to see as a movie, because there is no way that a mere movie could be a fraction as good as this glorious, three dimensional work.

I'll be lucky if I have to wait only another 5 - 10 years to find another book this good.
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95 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Patrick M. Blackburn on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's just not fair. Gregory David Roberts is one of the best writers of our time, and I do not make that statement lightly. I am usually a 350-400 page novel-reader -- I like to get in and get out. But after reading the first paragraph (I dare you to read it and NOT be interested in seeing where he goes), I couldn't stop thinking about it. Actually, I read the first paragraph in Borders, put it down and went home. I simply didn't want to start a 900 page novel. But I couldn't get the passage out of my head the whole night, and returned the next day to purchase it. This book is magical. It reads like the best non-fiction adventure novel (!) ever written. I gave the book to my dad for his birthday and about a month later asked him how it was going. He told me that he had 100 pages left but hadn't read in two weeks because he "didn't want it to end."

Instead of a synopsis of the book, which is available in so many places, I thought I'd tell you my thoughts about the book and how it impacted me and those around me. I hope it helps. I tell everyone about this book and always say the same two things:

1) Don't let the 900 pages scare you.

2) Read the first paragraph. If you aren't interested in that, don't go on. But if that paragraph doesn't inspire you, I have no idea why you read in the first place. You can read the first page here on Amazon.
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125 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on September 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
FINALLY, a gut-wrenching, harrowing, well-penned novel, whose author suffers not from the literary constipation of most current "highbrow" authors (He's faced down far more deadly things, chronicled herein, to be affrighted by sharp penned editors.) - A book, in short, that will make your heart bleed with the depths to which the human soul can sink and the glories to which it can rise. ----I read so many books, but this is the first true work of art and genius published in this new century that I've managed to discover. It is a book from which I'm still recovering from having read. Like all great art, it leaves one with a new perspective on the world and causes one to reconnoitre the heart's bearings. The book strips away the lies we tell ourselves and leaves the heartstrings bare for the reader to see, where he/ she will recognise his/her own.

Let's get something straight here: This is not a book of "purple prose" or any form of sentimentality. Each tear shed is wrung from harrowing experience. As Roberts writes, "One of the reasons we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you."--Your soul will have cried with Roberts's many times before the end of the book.

This is truly a book for lovers of great literature. Roberts writes, "I never found a club or a clan or idea that was more important to me than the men and women who believed in it."--This book is one that values the mystery of people and the mystery of human existence above all else. ----Including yours, reader.
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