Monday, November 21

Book: Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts Click for more info

It's not often that I don't really know where to begin when reviewing stuff. And yet here I am, wondering exactly where to start with Shantaram.

I'll get the easy stuff out of the way first, and start with the plot. The story (apparently largely based in reality) is about an escaped Australian convict who, en route to Germany, finds himself in Mumbai where he decides to remain. Over the next decade or so we hear about his adventures in the Bombay city, its slums and even its Mafia, all told in wonderful and vivid first person.

Despite the pretty incredible (and almost nonsensical) plot it's a pretty thrilling ride, made all the more real by some of the best characterisation I've read. I'm still trying to figure out how exactly Roberts manages to do this since, technically at least, the book seems largely plot rather than character driven. Perhaps it's the constant almost-poetry littered throughout, talking about all sorts of things like morality, truth, life and, of course, love? Whatever the case the whole thing is so real it almost feels like you're reading someone's autobiography and as you share the journey with Lin, the protagonist, you get to feel all of his love, romance, anger and emotions.

Technically the book is very well written and extremely easy to read and get lost in. Roberts' skill is not only in the creation of the story but the story telling itself; despite being quite the epic the book is perfectly balanced in terms of pace, progression and weighting of the chapters. The book is complete in the tying of all its thread and is thus immensely rewarding to consume.

But as well as being entertaining, the book also makes a good attempt at discussing relevant real life issues like morality, religion and justice - most of the conclusions essentially saying how although things are never as black and white as we like to think they are, what is right and just is almost always obvious.

But I'm gushing now. Shantaram really is a brilliant read and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in books, India or just a great story.