Stacy's Books

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Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Cover ImageFinished 5-28-09, rating 4.5, fiction, pub. 2003

A lot of people in my own country knew me as a face on a wanted poster.  But is it my own country, I asked myself.  Do I have a country?

It wasn’t until I’d asked myself the question that I realised I already had the answer.  If I did have a country, a nation of the heart, it was India.  I knew that I was as much a refugee, a displaced and stateless person, as the thousands of Afghans, Iranians, and others who’d come to Bombay across the burning bridge; those exiles who’d taken shovels of hope, and set about burying the past in the earth of their own lives.

Chapter 14

This novel is a beautiful, honest, and lyrical love letter to India.  I think before I try to describe the novel I’ll give you some stats about the author.  Roberts is an Australian who became a heroin addict, went to prison, escaped from the Australian prison after two years and made his way to Bombay.  In India he lived in the slums, opened a medical clinic, was imprisoned, worked for the Bombay mafia, and went to Afghanistan to provide weapons during their war with the Soviet Union.  Okay.  Now take all of that information and apply it to Lin, the man telling the story of Shantaram, and you have the basics for the book.  Roberts knows what he speaks.

When Lin arrives in Bombay he is immediately taken in by a guide with a huge smile and even larger heart, Prabaker, a small Indian who gives Lin his name,  Linbaba.  The two men become the best of friends and Parabaker even takes Lin home to his small village where his parents live, where he given the name, Shantaram, which means man of peace.  Once back in Bombay Lin takes up residence in one of the largest slums and with only a basic first aid kit opens up a clinic for the tens of thousands of the slums.  He finds ways to make money on the street before he is eventually befriended by Khader Khan, the don of the Bombay mafia.  Lin begins to look at this man as a father fiigure. 

Even as I’m writing this I know that I cannot really tell you even half of this story.  It’s sheer size, 933 pages, forces me to just give you a few of my thoughts.  I was blown away by the description of India and its people.  Also, he does travel to Afghanistan and its history provides much insight into what is happening there today.  I also loved the writing.  Roberts knows how to tell a story and to tell it well.  The introspection of Lin (and Roberts) will start many a conversation and cause much reflection. 

It is almost a perfect book.  I did feel that the last few hundred pages lost a little of the intensity of the rest of the book, but I’m sure that was probably intended.  Also, Lin felt like a very self-important character.  I don’t think this takes away from the enjoyment of the novel, but it did make me read his story with some question about his genuineness.

I recommend this book to everyone.  It has adventure, crime, love, powerful men, war, hugging bears, and people who will touch your heart.  Set aside some time and read it.  Johnny Depp has purchased the rights to the movie and plans on playing Lin (yum!).  This is one of my husband’s favorite books (maybe the very favorite?) and he was hooked from the first line, so I will end this review with the first two lines of the book…

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.  I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | 4 1/2 Star Books | , , , , | 11 Comments

Shantaram Quotes

Cover Image

I’ll be reviewing this book tomorrow, but in its 900+ pages there were so many wonderful passages I wanted to share some of them.  Hopefully these will give you a taste of the book and you’ll come back tomorrow for my review.

“When we’re young, we think that suffering is something that’s done to us.  When we get older – when the steel door slams shut, in one way or another – we know that real suffering is measured by what’s taken away from us.”   Chapter 14

The only victory that really counts in prison, an old-timer in the Australian jail once said to me, is survival.  But survival means more than simply being alive.  It’s not just the body that must survive a jail term: the spirit and the will and the heart have to make it through as well.  If any one of them is broken or destroyed , the man whose living body walks through the gate, at the end of his sentence, can’t be said to have survived it.  And it’s for those small victories of the heart, and the spirit, and the will that we sometimes risk the body that cradles them.  Chapter 20

“Lin, a man has to find a good woman, and when he finds her he has to win her love.  Then he has to earn her respect.  Then he has to cherish her trust.  And then he has to, like, go on doing that for as long as they live.  Until they both die.  That’s what it’s all about.  That’s the most important thing in the world.  That’s what a man is, yaar.”  Chapter 29

Lettie had once said that she found it strange and incongruous to hear me describe criminals, killers, and mafiosi as men of honour.  The confusion, I think, was hers, not mine.  She’d confused honour with virtue.  Virtue is concerned with what we do, and honour is concerned with how we do it.  You can fight a war in an honourable way – the Geneva Convention exists for that very reason – and you can enforce the peace without any honour at all.  In its essence, honour is the  art of being humble.  And gangsters, just like cops, politicians, soldiers, and holy men, are only ever good at what they do if they stay humble.     Chapter 39

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Say What? | , | 4 Comments

Teaser Tuesday- Shantaram, again


  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! ;)

    I sat alone, on a boulder that was larger a flatter than most, and I smoked a cigarette.  I smoked in those days because, like everyone else in the world who smokes, I wanted to die at least as much as I wanted to live.

    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Chapter 18

    Cover ImageThis is listed as being in pre-production, with Johnny Depp cast as the lead.  The man described in the above teaser.

    So, whatcha readin’?

    March 31, 2009 Posted by | teaser tuesday | , , | 21 Comments

    Teaser Tuesday, Shantaram

    teasertuesdays3TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

    • Grab your current read.
      Let the book fall open to a random page.
      Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
      You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

      Please avoid spoilers!

    Didier once told me, in a rambling, midnight dissertation, that a dream is the place where a wish and a fear meet.  When the wish and the fear are exactly the same, he said, we call the dream a nightmare.

    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Chapter 7

    Cover ImageSo, what are you reading?

    Hosted my MizB.

    March 17, 2009 Posted by | teaser tuesday | , , | 15 Comments

    Whatcha Readin’ Quiz?

    For fun I thought it would be great if we all shared what we’re reading right now with a sentence or two from the first page.

    It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.  I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.

    These are the first two sentences of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a 933 page novel that mirrors his own life.

    So what are you reading right now and can you share a sentence or two from the first page?  Any time of book works for me 🙂

    January 12, 2009 Posted by | Quizzes | , , , | 6 Comments