Shantaram – Gregory Roberts review by Teresa Hamilton
Epic novel Shantaram by Gregory Roberts is not for the faint hearted. Influenced by real events in the life of the author, it is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict who flees a maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a Bombay, where he can disappear.
It is a tome of weight and depth. Through its pages the reader is immersed in a world so far removed from Western reality that it feels like armchair travelling. Like your own ‘Pocket Guide to Mumbai’ you will experience the infinite variety of a vast city humming with life.
‘Accompanied by his faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.’
This book is full of vibrant characters: Prabaker, the Indian with the winning smile who is Lin's first guide to the city; Karla, a Swiss woman also fleeing a troubled past, with whom Lin becomes infatuated, but it is Roberts's love of India and the people who live there that is unmistakable and a joy to read about. Through Lin’s eyes the reader can live his life, embracing all the senses; smelling the spices in the air and the stench of the slums, feeling the pain of the patients that he treats in his clinic and tasting the monsoon rains that wash through the streets.
Lin is a hunted man searching for love and meaning but the keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people.
Like all epic novels Shantaram will stay with you long after the last page. You will feel bereft at its close and long for another to take its place in your heart. So savour it and make it last - a book like this doesn’t come along every day.