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Shantaram: A Novel Paperback – September 29, 2005
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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 Karlas 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It not only did its job of entertaining, but got me to thinking philosophically about people when I was not reading it. Anybody that knows me would not consider me a philosophical thinker. That is why I rated the mood as thoughtful though it works up to to being every bit as much suspenseful. It is an incredible book that starts out interesting and moved on to the point where if I could manage to put it down by midnight I couldn't wait to get myself back to reading it. I read the book twice. After the first time I went to Southeast Asia, not including India which is the setting of the book, but once to Thailand and twice to Nepal. I really enjoyed the people and some of them could make me laugh harder than I ever have in my life. But they were always trying to pull petty scams. Then when I got back from my third trip I read Shantaram the second time and it put things into perspective. They assume we are all rich while the poorest of them live in plywood and cardboard houses with plastic scraps held down by rocks for a roof. So what is it for the Americans who likely paid over 2K Just to get there and back to get suckered in a petty scam. I thought about my loss of $60.00 to a scam and it seemed more ignorance on my part than a crime on their part and just learned to be more prepared and knowledgeable the next time I bought something. I really liked them other than having to be wary of the scam at any time. But that was all part of the some of the best experiences i had in my life. In addition when I saw how many people were poor and how they lived, I just considered it a donation to charity that can't be written off. Big Deal. Those were the best experiences I ever had.
There is no way you can truly understand Lin, his choices, love of danger and hold on constant living in a hyper warp life. Spoiling for a fight, living on adrenalin. He is exhausting and exhilarating. A wonderful read. I will read the sequel.
I cannot express how glad I am that I did. This is one of the best books I've ever read, and I don't say that lightly. The narrative, the story, and most of all the all-pervasive atmosphere blend together to make a hell of a yarn. Written by an ex-con who escaped prison and fled to Bombay (Mumbai), this semi-autobiographical account of his time in that sprawling, complex, magical city.
Unfortunately, I don't have enough of a way with words to fully express my love for this book. Beg, buy, or borrow a copy.