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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram by Gregory David RobertsGregory David Roberts was born in Australia in 1952, and following the breakup of his marriage and loss of access to his daughter he became a heroin addict, a habit which he fed by a life of crime.

Shantaram tells the story of his life on the run, and by any standards it is an epic and extraordinary tale.

After the first two manuscripts of the novel were destroyed, Roberts finally succeeded in getting the book published in 2003.

Read on for a full review….

-- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts a Review by Des Greene --
I have to say I had some doubts upon receiving my copy of Shantaram. The words “International Bestseller” emblazoned across the top of a book’s cover are normally enough to make me think twice before investing my time. At 933 pages it also looked like this book was going to consume a considerable amount of time. As it turned out, I need not have worried, Shantaram was gripping and entertaining from cover to cover.

It follows the life of the author (originally called Gregory John Peter Smith) as he arrives in Bombay on the run after breaking out of an Australian jail. The first friend he makes is Prabaker, who gives him the name Lin, and starts to introduce him to the workings of the crowded city. He forms a deep and lasting bond with Prabaker, and on visiting his home village he is given his Marathi name of Shantaram.

It undoubtedly stems from an openness to get involved and embrace these new surroundings to the full, but from there on his life follows an amazing series of experiences and events, from making his home and setting up a health clinic in a Bombay slum, to running guns and horses into Afghanistan for the Mujaheddin. Along the way, the book is populated by the vivid mixture of wonderful and dreadful characters that he encounters.

Shantaram isn’t solely focused on the action and events however, the author also goes to great lengths to convey the beauty and pain tied up in his story, and also to reconcile the effects of his previous bad deeds and the morality of some of the current events he gets drawn into. This is probably the only side of the book I had some misgivings about, as some of the self-justification had me feeling a little queasy at times. I also found some of the descriptive paragraphs had a tendency to be a little over flowery, as though he was trying a bit too hard to soften other more brutal aspects of the story.

The above is such small criticism for what is an amazing and thoroughly engaging book overall, so please don’t let it discourage you from getting hold of a copy. Shantaram is probably the best book of its type that I’ve read since Papillon by Henri Charriere which is no faint praise.

Already read Shantaram? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!


  1. I bought this book in 2006. And I have started it too but never got around finishing it. The very size is daunting, I think. But reading your review, I think I will pick it up again. Soon.

    I ought too. I love Mumbai!


    1. Des says:

      I do hope you enjoy it. It is rather a long book, but I found that since there is always so much going on, it carried the book along and I never found myself getting bored with it.

      Thanks for visiting!

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