"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."
So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum-security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.
Accompanied by his guide and 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.
As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.
Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas - this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.
©2003 Gregory David Roberts (P)2006 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Shantaram is a novel of the first order, a work of extraordinary art, a thing of exceptional beauty. If someone asked me what the book was about, I would have to say everything, every thing in the world. Gregory David Roberts does for Bombay what Lawrence Durrell did for Alexandria, what Melville did for the South Seas, and what Thoreau did for Walden Pond: He makes it an eternal player in the literature of the world." (Pat Conroy)
"[A] sprawling, intelligent novel…full of vibrant characters…the exuberance of his prose is refreshing…Roberts brings us through Bombay's slums and opium houses, its prostitution dens and ex-pat bars, saying, You come now. And we follow." (The Washington Post)
"Few stand out quite like Shantaram …nothing if not entertaining. Sometimes a big story is its own best reward." (The New York Times)
I'm really glad I listened to this book. I tried to read it years ago but found the reading difficult. The narrator is superb. The cast of characters is vast, he did an amazing job on the accents and bringing them to life. The story is so rich and deep. It had me from the opening paragraph and I held tight. I will be hard pressed for another book as compelling as this. I would give it 10 stars if I could.
I loved the reading of this. The reader was very slow, so I listened at 1.25 the speed. I enjoyed the accents and pronunciations. I alternated reading from a paper copy and the audio to fully enjoy it.
It took me awhile to decide if I should download this book because it was so long. But I'm glad I did. What an incredible story!
Audio Addict Capt Kirk
THE MOST DIFFICULT, MOST WONDERFUL Book I I've read in years and years. EPIC YET DETAILED. CHARACTERS THAT I NOW KNOW , LAUGH, AND GRIEVE.
5 + STARS
The narrator was so fantastic, that I felt the audible version was better than my experience would have been reading the book myself. The narrator had the Australian accent of the book's narrator/author, as well as various Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, Swiss-American, American, and French accents to really bring the characters alive.
Plus, the story was amazing - difficult to imagine that it is based on the author's life experience. Truly epic, taking place mostly in Bombay, but showing different sides as the author lived as a fugitive, then in the slums, then in luxury as part of the mafia, then as a fighter in the Afghanistan war, and so on. Such a dense, engaging story, and so long! By the time it ended, I felt that I would miss the characters in my car - driving will be a little more lonely now...
So many graphic scenes - several intensely violent scenes (e.g., when he was in an Indian prison, or fighting a rival mafia gang). He richly describes each environment, including the scents and sounds. It was a very "tactile" book.
He is very philosophical, so there is a lot of self-reflection and self-healing that the author is going through. The discussions about good and evil were interesting - "Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reasons". Reflections about love and life pervade the book, as people came and left his life.
I strongly recommend this epic book. I will seek out this narrator - I was so impressed by his interpretation of the book, and his facility with the accents. Do not be daunted by the length of the book (41 hours!), because they fly by through the breadth and intensity of this story.
Both the writing and the narration are fantastic. The characters are well developed, the storyline is fantastic and although it is a long book there is never a dull moment.
So many and none I can think of without giving something away. The relationships between the characters come alive and there are many hilarious, touching, sad and powerful moments throughout the book that are well woven into the story and not contrived or overly dramatic.
The narrator does such a good job with the various accents that it really enhances the story. You wouldn't get that in the same way if you read the words on the page (not that I'm against reading for myself, but in this case narration is better).
Great book, very entertaining, a little long, but great story
Everything. What an amazing performance. Even the female voices he did were great and engaging. A master with accents and this book requires quite a range.
Humphrey Bower breathes life into a cast of characters as vast and diverse as the sub-continent itself, as the saga of Lin, an escaped convict from down-under, unfolds in streets of Bombay. Lin-baba's acceptance among the poor, as well as the criminal underbelly, of Bombay provides a back drop for a philosophical inquiry into good and evil, love, and our very existence.
It's a top-notch listen, but I'm not kidding when I say it's epic. 40+ hours, but it was time well spent. Not to mention that the narration made story retention very easy. I fell in love with this book and I think it was as much about the narration as Lin's inspiring tale.
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