Week 3, January 14th, 2024

Posted by Max Bellmann

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Another week, another update. This week was dominated by one book and one book alone. Shanaram, by Gregory David Roberts. This was a recommendation by an old colleague that was described as “not sci-fi but my favorite non series audio book ever.” High praise. I had to give this a whirl… despite it’s magnitude. We’re talking 944 pages or 41 hours via audiobook. It’s no joke.

I’m quite glad I gave this a chance, especially with no prior knowledge of what this book entails than the aforementioned note from my colleague and the fact Apple TV made it into a TV show (which I need to watch).

My favorite kind of story is one that starts with a bang to hook you, then can go back and build the story. Shantaram does exactly that. Within just a few pages we’ve learned our hero get tortured, invovled with drugs, smuggling, prison (and prison escapes), and so much more. Love it, I’m in!

Roberts does a great job of painting the picture of Lin (our protagonist) and his surroundings and dealings in 1980’s Bombay (not Mumbai). At times it has aspects of “Slumdog Millionaire” but by no means repeats any of that story – only having parallels to hardships that exist across India.

Shantaram is so massive it could easily have been 3 books in and of itself. Part of me thinks this might’ve been a better decision as there are certainly different “chapters” of the book that fall into their own mini-stories (not really ‘mini’ however). But the cast of characters does (mostly) span throughout and thus understand why it was created into one giant epic tale.

I won’t provide any spoilers here, but absolutely would recommend this book to anyone willing to ignore the daunting task that is 944 pages. Roberts portrays hardships, nerves of steel, love, betrayal, survival, heartbreak, loss, kinship, and so much more. There are several stories within the story that are incredible, but must say the prison section(s) are absolutely amazing, harrowing, and worth every second of the read.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It will have you laughing, crying, gripping your seat in anticipation, shocked, surprised, and continually guessing as to what may or may not happen next (and why). The characters are deep, connected, and are depicted in a beautful way that really has you feeling as though you know these folks.

Please read. 5/5 Stars.

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