Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

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Habeebi
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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Post by Habeebi »

I was just wondering if anyone else had read this...

I wasn't sure whether i should put it in the fiction or non fiction section as I think there is some deliberation on whether this story has been slightly fabricated or not

I got about half way through this book and really started to struggle with it and I think partly because I had a doubt in my mind whether his tale has been exaggerated a fair bit.....be curious to know what others think..

MatDatPhatKat
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Post by MatDatPhatKat »

I think I've got this at home waiting to be read. Is this the one that is meant to be biographical - prison, drugs, India, escape from prison etc?
I tend to give a book 100 pages (200 if it's a big one). If it hasn't grabbed me by then I just put it to the side. Life's too short and there are too many amazing books to be read! Never understood the urge to get through a book regardless of how bad it is.

Habeebi
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Post by Habeebi »

I would definitely give it a go- it just put me off when I heard it wasn't necessarily a true story but its still an entertaining ish read!

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RosarioPozzi
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Post by RosarioPozzi »

It depends on your frame of mind i think. I read the whole book, but I only found out afterwards that it may not be a true story, that did disappoint me, but i still love the book, i think it is wonderfully written and maybe even (as cringy as it sounds) a bit inspiring. But then India and it cultures have always fascinated me and even though i have never been, i would love to see it how he describes it!

MatDatPhatKat wrote:I tend to give a book 100 pages (200 if it's a big one). If it hasn't grabbed me by then I just put it to the side. Life's too short and there are too many amazing books to be read! Never understood the urge to get through a book regardless of how bad it is.
Although the above comment is fair, Some of the best books i have read are ones that I tried to stick out till the end. I love a book that's ending makes the story. Obviously it is always better to have a great read all the way through though. :D

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Doc Foster
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Post by Doc Foster »

I finished reading Gregory David Roberts’ novel, Shantaram, this morning at 3:00.

I’d worried when I began what is, for a slow reader like me, a large commitment of time, that some of the reviewer comments about the novel would prove correct: that it was an over-the-top collection of purple prose. Well, in a way it is. It is over the top in the sense that Bombay (now Mumbai) is over the top, a chaotic, noisy, crowded, sometimes violent city of billionaires and filthy slums, of many religions and just as many languages. In the novel it’s overwhelming at times, but Roberts creates it for us, real and magical, wondrous and believable.

There are times when Roberts’ prose is decidedly purple. He tends to go wandering off into his descriptions of the natural world (it reminded me of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, set in the delta country of Louisiana). Beyond that is his tendency to be very creative in describing people’s eyes. Here’s an example from the book - many of the characters in Shantaram, men, women and children, receive the same treatment:

SHE WALKED INTO LEOPOLD’S at the usual time, and when she stopped at a table near me to talk with friends, I tried once more to find the words for the foliant blaze of her green eyes. I thought of leaves and opals and the warm shallows of island seas. But the living emerald in Karla’s eyes, made luminous by the sunflowers of gold light that surrounded the pupils, was softer, far softer. I did eventually find that colour, the green in nature that was a perfect match for the green in her lovely eyes, but it wasn’t until long months after that night in Leopold’s.

Roberts, Gregory David (2004). Shantaram: A Novel (Kindle Locations 856-863). St. Martin's Press. Kindle Edition.

At first this sort of description is beautiful, but as you continue to read, and the descriptions accumulate, they become a little predictable (not what Roberts will say about the latest pair of eyes, but only that he’ll surely say it). You find yourself skimming over it, waiting for it to end, so you can move on. But then Roberts redeems his writing with another sort of description, that reveals character or ideas. After the description above, for example, he goes on to say:

“And strangely, inexplicably, I didn’t tell her about it. I wish now with all my heart that I did. The past reflects eternally between two mirrors—the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say. I wish now that from the beginning, even then in the first weeks that I knew her, even on that night, the words had come to tell her … to tell her that I liked her.”

If that were all Roberts writes about in Shantaram, it would be widely ignored and soon forgotten. But it’s a big, thrilling book, full of mystery, blood and guts, brave men, beautiful women (and the reverse!)unpredictable twists and turns of plot, unforgettable characters. And above it all we see the protagonist, a fictional version of Roberts himself, trying to figure it all out. What’s the use of living; who, if anyone, can he trust; is anyone truly what they seem? Can a gangster - a killer and a thief - live honorably, even if he can’t live virtuously (and what’s the difference between those two words)? How can we reclaim misused lives and go on? What are our responsibilities to each other?

The biggest question of all, at least for the protagonist, is how to find redemption. On the one hand, he’s a skilled, tough, but honorable gangster, who has found wealth and friendship, not only in the Indian mafia but in Bombay’s slums, its movie industry and its cafe society. On the other hand he’s lived a hard, false, often brutal life and he knows that some of the people he has loved and trusted have proven themselves untrustworthy and incapable of love. For all its satisfactions and pleasures, he’s become tired of living that life. And yet he cannot quite leave it behind.

How wonderful it is to live for a while inside Shantaram’s head (Shantaram, meaning “Man of Peace” is the name a friend’s mother has given him. Is he really a man of peace in some way, despite his often violent life? That’s another of the many questions “Shantaram” offers the reader for consideration.) This is, above all, a novel of people and ideas - but with lots of action! Gang wars, battles with the Soviets in Afghanistan, a stretch in an Indian jail. And there’s weird, wild stuff (to paraphrase Johnny Carson). The Standing Babas - monks who have pledged never to stop standing up; a dancing bear and its two bright blue handlers; a wedding party high up in the open latticework of a high rise building under construction, a stampede of rats...

I'm glad I read this book - nothing quite like it has come my way.

Not to give away too much about the outcome (or lack thereof) but here’s a bit about Roberts’ life, from wikipedia:

“Gregory David Roberts (born June 1952) (born Gregory John Peter Smith) is an Australian author best known for his novel Shantaram. He is a former heroin addict and convicted bank robber who escaped from Pentridge Prison in 1980, and fled to India where he lived for ten years.

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Post by gali »

I have started this book awhile ago and quit. It wasn't to my taste.
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Doc Foster
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Post by Doc Foster »

It seems to cause a wide variety of likes and dislikes!

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provenzano82
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Post by provenzano82 »

fiction or not this is one of my favorite books of all time! a few other books taking place in india that i enjoyed were the white tiger and lowland

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colleenmoore
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Post by colleenmoore »

Well, I just joined and finally found a discussion on a book I have read!! I have got to get reading!! Anyway, I read this one about 2 years ago and it is one of my favorites. Some in the discussion debate the fiction/non-fiction issue, I have to agree that it is likely a little of both, but who doesn't exaggerate a little when telling their stories. Regardless, Roberts is a great storyteller. I've never been to India or overseas at all, but he described the people and places in such a way that it truly made me what to be there. After reading Shantaram, I looked for more of his books and found (1) this is his only published book to date, and (2) a second book was supposed to be released in 2013, but I have not seen anything.

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Post by Sarah_Khan »

I absolutely loved this book! It is one of my all time favorites. Even though this book was very long I still found myself a little sad after I finished it. Whether all the facts are true or not doesn't bother me because at the end of the day the story is incredible. The book is very well written and the characters are complex. The way the author philosophizes about various things throughout the story was so interesting to read and it made me look at things a different way.
I wish more people would give a chance to this really long book because it really is worth all the time it takes to read. :)

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Anonymous_girl
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Post by Anonymous_girl »

Tried reading this one after having it recommended to me but I only made it a few chapters in, just not quite my taste, worth giving a shot though, have a feeling it's one of those you either love or are indifferent to.

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Post by paintedcoral »

I loved the book. Thought the descriptions become mundane towards the end, but everything the character did was fascinating.

The book truly fueled the fire for me to go travel the world

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rkapp
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Post by rkapp »

Wow, I'm surprised at the amount of people who were uninterested in this book! I'd consider myself to be very well read in a variety of genres and this is one of my all time favorites. I found it truely fascinating from start to finish. It was good enough for me to read the equally lengthy sequel "The Mountain Shadow," which I also enjoyed, although I did not think it was on par with Shantaram. If you enjoyed Shantaram as much as I did it is definitely worth checking out the sequel. If you were only moderately impressed with Shantaram then stay away from The Mountain Shadow.

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Post by WardahEbrahim »

I agree with those who say it doesn't really matter. I think I was too young when I read it though - should read it again. Its a brilliant book. I read it thinking it is a true story, but I'm sure the author embellished it a bit. Either way its an interesting story, the taxi driver friend was my favourite

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JCORDELL87
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Post by JCORDELL87 »

I absolutely hands down love this book!!!! I have been a somewhat obsessed & avid reader since the second grade. I used books to escape my "adulthood" as a 9 year old. So it's safe to say that I feel 20+ years later I have read a fair number of books. I remember very specifically that I was 23 years old sitting in Lee Arrondale State Prison when this book found me. The words poured off the paper like poetry and seeped deep into my melancholy bones. Just thinking of that book, which I do own and read multiple times I go on a trip down a lonely alley into an unknown safe haven.

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