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Book Review - Shantaram

What a book! What a book! I don’t need to say more, but I am going to.

Literary masterpiece, publishing marvel, thrilling adventure is all the kudos that Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram has bagged. The little snippet at the back of the book is enough to intrigue you and convince you to buy the book if you haven’t already been influenced by reviews and word of mouth. I luckily wasn’t influenced. The entire book was virgin territory for me. I had travelled to Bombay but once and it was not in the least bit adventurous. Roberts has managed to make me fall in love with his Bombay and its sense of freedom. His repertoire is faultless and his imagery almost perfect. He narrates so eloquently, detailed descriptions of alleys, people, emotions and situations. If none of this was true and he wasn’t writing from memory, I would want to congratulate him for his fantastic imagination. He has managed to put on paper, the events, the places and the people as lifelike as they probably are. I am saying this with so much conviction as it all seems nothing but real and absolutely effortless. His language is a pleasure to read and has lent the book its page turner quality.  

Roberts makes you fall in love with his will power to survive and his appetite for risk. He also carries off his characters with the expertise that I think only experience can bring. It’s inevitable to share his sentiments as he describes his walk through the black alley with rats all over his feet, when he moves into the slum, when he fights stray dogs in his attempt to protect himself and little Tariq, when he decides not to leave Afghanistan with his father figure, when he fights cold turkey and when he received each blow during his torture at the Arthur Road prison.

His regular and painful recollections of his daughter and mother let us in on his lost yet existing familial ties and his life before heroin.
Through the events and years he narrates in the book, I didn’t come across one ounce of self pity.  He seemed to gain strength from having people around him and from Karla’s and Didier’s one liners.

This is not just another book, it’s not a figment of a good writer’s imagination it’s truly not an attempt at self glory. Its awe-inspiring and worthy of a place in everybody’s personal library. Roberts has told the world his story remarkably and given us all a glimpse not just into one man’s life but the struggles of a life on the streets in Bombay, and people, all kinds.

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