"Shantaram: A Novel" by Gregory David Roberts

(Anonymous Submission to old ClubReading website)

Lindsay or Linbaba, as the Indian people named him, is a fugitive who escaped prison in Australia, where he served two years of his 19-year sentence of arms robberies, which he used to do to support his heroin addiction caused by loosing custody of his daughter in a failed marriage. After the escape, Linbaba lands in Bombay on a fake New Zealand passport. Upon landing, he meets Prabaker who plays the guide role and shows him even the most secretive parts of Bombay. In the same time Lindsay meets Karla, a beautiful Swiss-American who works at Leopold's cafÈ the place where all the ex-pats hang out. Linbaba falls deeply in love with Karla and the love takes a complicated role in the plot.

Following one night when Lindsay is robbed of all his possessions, Prabaker brings him to the slums of Bombay where over twenty-five thousand people lived in extreme poverty. There, Linbaba becomes the 'doctor', taking care of people illnesses: rat bites, dysentery, anemia, etc. His unfortunate fate brings him within the walls of Arthur Road Prison, a hellish place where he experiences the worst prison conditions. He is released from prison and Lindsay gets involved with the Bombay mafia, Abdel Khader Khan, which later on brings him in Afghanistan to fight against the Russians.

Roberts wrote the book in prison, two of the copies were destroyed in 13 years and then he succeeded to write the last copy for publishing. The writing approach is far from flawless, but the book has a magnetic appeal and it is hard to put down; its plot whirls into complicated events which are linked and explained in the end. The characters have fascinating personalities and have strong connections in the series of events.

It's interesting how the book reveals the underground scene of the 80s and how its ex-pats engaged in criminal activity to lead a high life in Bombay. Despite the criminal activity he gets dragged into, Lindsay comes out as a strong person with a great heart. His love for Karla grows stronger in time even if she cannot return the same feelings. He is a savior, a fighter and a survivor.

I strongly recommend this book as a work of action thriller, travel guide, love story and superb epic.

Review by Manuela "Neo-Hippy Books Review"

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