Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts - PART 1

the book is divided in three parts. This is a review of part 1

So, a co-worker of mine and I had a talk at work one day, and he mentioned that he’d just finished this incredibly amazing book. The same exact day, my grandmother called and told me that she’d just finished an incredibly amazing book. Both of them had just finished shantaram, and when my grandmother offered to lend it to me, it was impossible to say no. Coincidence or not, I seriously think I was supposed to read this book.

Shantaram was first published in 2003 and is written by the australian author, former heroin addict and convicted bankrobber Gregory David Roberts. The book has been translated to 20 different languages.

And, fun fact: Roberts will be publishing the sequel to shantaram this year! “The mountain Shadow” is expected in october 2015, and will be the story of Lin’s further adventures.

In 1978, Greg Roberts was sentenced 20 years in prison for robbing banks. Two years later, he escaped Pentridge prison and fled to India, where he would spend eight of the ten years as a wanted man. This book is based upon Roberts experiences in India as a wanted criminal, written as a fiction.
This book contains so much, it’s hard to put it in a specific genre. It’s a love story, and it’s a gangster-story. It’s a crime and mystery book. It’s a story abuot surviving, and about humans and different culturals. Also, it’s a story about India, and all the different sides of the country.

PART 1 starts off when Roberts - under the alias “Lin”, har just gotten to India. We follow him as he manage to settle down and by luck meets a friendly indian who probably is one of the biggest reason for Lin to be able to survive. We get a nice introduction to Lin’s surroundings, the indian culture and the challenges Lin faces being a wanted criminal, and how it is like to start a life all over again.

The one thing that clearly is the most remarkable about this story is Roberts' amazing way of describing. In some books descriptions of the surroundings lack, and in too many books they're too much and end up being just boring. But in this, it's perfect. In the beginning, when Lin arrives in Mombay I seriously felt that I was there with him. I was almost stunned, because although I was sitting in the couch with a blanket and a cup of tea, I was also in that bus and on that street, seeing, smelling and listening to Mombay. Throughout the whole book, the descriptions continue being this amazing. It's not a single description that feels unnecessary. I'm deeply impressed by that, because it is a lot of describing throughout the book. One part of me already want to revisit India so badly, to see everything he describes for myself, and the other part of me feel like it’s not neccesary, because I just went there - through this book.

Another part to love about this book is Roberts way of putting in the most interesting conversations, and by that creating incredible personalities. The characters in this book feels so real, and I'm amazed by so many of them. The main character Lin, is probably the one I'm the most amazed by. The way he thinks, the way he expresses himself, his morals and actions, just everything, is so interesting. And Prabaker is by far the best sidechararer I've ever read about.

So many of the conversations in this book is directly philosophical; and it gets to me in so many ways. First of all, the people having the conversations has so many interesting point of views, and I seriously felt, several times, that I got new ways to think by reading the book. And also, it adds so much to the personality of the characters. A persons opinion says a lot about their personality. And therefore, all of this philosophical conversations added a whole new depth to many of the characters. It's been a long time since I've felt that I've gotten to know side-characters this deeply.

What makes this book difficult for me however, is surprisingly not the size of the book (except that it's hard to take it with me). It is that so far, there is no goal. Normally when you read a story, it contains a problem, or something that needs to be solved. In this book, there kind of isn't any. Lin has escaped jail and fled to India, and then he more or less wanders about, discovering the true India. And while this is surprisingly interesting, as well as the characters, the actions and Lin's amazingly well described thoughts about it, its kind of hard to find it exciting.

In some ways you could compare it to a painting. Imagine the most beautiful painting you've ever seen. It's so gorgeous, you've even bought it and hunged it over the couch in you're living room. And at some days you could spend a good time looking at it. But at one point, you go on with your life and do something else. Sometimes, shantaram feels a little bit like that. An incredibly complex, huge, interesting painting of the true India.

With this being said, there are still a lot of things happening in part 1, and Lin's character development is huge from the start and until the end of this part of the book, because all of the things happening and shaping him in the process. Sometimes I've even read a couple more chapters than I planned to, because I was curious and it actually got a little exciting. But then, what happens ends and something new is happening, and just like that, it's a little too easy to put down the book, and maybe let it lie some days.

Sometimes it's written something really exciting that points to a part that will come later in the books, and that has made it a little easier to want to read further on. But it's not enough. I miss wanting to read the rest of the book in one take, even though it's getting late and it's not a good idea. I miss getting so addicted it feels like there is nothing else in my life but the book. So far, Shantaram doesn't have that.

But another thing that really needs to be said now, is that this is just part 1 out of 3, and as I’m writing this I’ve read a bit of part 2, and it seems like the real actions is starting now. Some part of me therefore think that part 1 needed to be that slow in order for us to know both Lin and the environment before the real action is going down. So the questions for me right now are: Does the book has an unnecasary slow start,or do we need to know everything we now know to able to understand the rest? or am I simply to impatient to enjoy this masterpiece? I can’t tell for sure yet.

Currently, there won't be a problem reading part two and part three at all, because I'm still in love with the whole world, and with Lin and everything. And I am seriously excited about how this is going to end, because that's impossible to say right now.

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