In 1978, gifted student and writer Greg Roberts turned to heroin when his marriage collapsed, feeding his addiction with a string of robberies. Caught and convicted, he was given a nineteen-year sentence. After two years, he escaped from a maximum security prison, spending the next ten years on the run as Australia’s most wanted man. Hiding in Bombay, he established a medical clinic for slum dwellers, worked in the Bollywood film industry and served time in the notorious Arthur Road prison. He was recruited by one of the most charismatic branches of the Bombay mafia for whom he worked as a forger, counterfeiter, and smuggler, and fought alongside a unit of mujaheddin guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan. His debut novel, SHANTARAM, is based on this ten-year period of his life in Bombay. The result is an epic tale of slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison torture, mafia gang wars and Bollywood films. A gripping adventure story, SHANTARAM is also a superbly written meditation on good and evil and an authentic evocation of Bombay life.
A beautifully narrated, free-flowing and honest book with realistic ups and downs like a woman with terrible PMT. There are parts in this book where Roberts doesn’t seem to know if he is going to play good cop or bad cop. Regardless of the undecided roles this book definitely had an effect on me. At times making me want to laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time. This book triumphs when it tells some of the best stories from the absolute heart of the slums in India.
Lin as Davies calls himself once he reaches the vast beauty of Bombay finds himself on a massive adventure that has the potential to put him back into jail but this time in a foreign land. However being in that foreign land there is the possibility of deportation. When he meets a group of friends and his possible great love forever more the story starts to take shape around the life that he begins with his new-found friends.
Sitting and spending afternoons sometimes into evenings drinking in Leopold’s with his friend Didier and the group, Lin has started to learn the native languages of Marathi and Hindi so he is able to converse with the locals. The choice of language gains him respect from many as he makes his name known through Bombay.
Eventually Lin finds himself in the position of having to live in the slum with his best friend Prabaker (Prabu) who has been a staple person from the beginning of the book. Prabu was initially Lin’s guide when he first arrived in Bombay and he was ‘the very best Bombay guide for Mr Lin!’. Their relationship blossoms into somewhat of a brotherhood and they spend most of their time together and eventually when Lin moves into the slum are even closer.
Lin soon takes up the post of the village doctor (unqualified) and the people start to flock in day by day and trust him with their well lives. From minor ailments to the big guns when the entire slum gets a wave of cholera. With his hands full and people dying all around him Lin tries to save himself and the people he has grown to love. Help arrive in the form of the great Khader who is the leader of the slum village. The people who cannot be cured are sent to the local hospital and treated by registered medical professionals and others are sadly left to perish in the gigantic wave of illness.
This is just the start of the book and there are many more stories that intertwine to make Lin’s big adventure. At points I have to admit that I did cry but that is because the book got to a point where I would either be rendered completely emotionless or just let it out. Now for the guys that want to read this book don’t be put off by the point that there are teary moments in this book just think of it as making yourself stronger to get through such a great book.
Without a doubt this is a book that I can say I am glad to have read but will not be picking up again for many, MANY years. Personally I think there is a lot of fat that could have been trimmed and I did find myself skim reading a couple of pages as it was incessant description that I just didn’t need or want to know (e.g. the detailed description of a gun!). However there were still parts that were read with intent and could have been cut out due to the beginning of the sentence, paragraph or page.
I simply cannot go into more detail because with everything going on with me outside this book I cannot remember some of it. That does not reflect well on the book but do not take this as the beginning or end all of the book as it really was an interesting read.
Not the best review I have written but maybe that is due to me just wanted to get it done. On to the next.
Read: As part of a challenge.