By Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram was recommended to me, and described as ‘an epic’. It suppose it is that, as it is very long and a lot of things happen. It details the story of a man called ‘Lin’ who escapes from an Australian prison, flees to Bombay on a fake passport and gets up to various things there, such as living in a slum and becoming a ‘slum doctor’, working for the mafia, fighting in Afghanistan, and going to an Indian prison.
The first part of the book is mainly about his time in the slum. This is quite a happy period, because Lin has a lot of friends in the slum, including Prabaker (the star of the show) and he has lots of funny experiences there, like when he is sent a dancing bear with instructions to give it a cuddle. He also becomes a sort of slum doctor, treating minor medical problems in the slum. It’s all very nice, there is a cholera epidemic which is a bit shit but this gives him the opportunity to have a little smooch with this woman he is in love with. GDR uses pretty flowery language, right, and Lin is such an optimistic soul, and never slags anyone off. He makes living in a Bombay slum sound like the best thing ever, and I started thinking am I supposed to believe that this hippy is a hardened criminal? You should see how he goes off on one when he gets to have a shag with the woman he loves, he says shit like ‘Every moment was a satin skin cascade’ and I was like ‘Are you talking about the old in – out?’.
Anyway, my cynicism was quickly stopped when just after making luurve he pops out, only to be arrested and put in an Indian jail. He has some hardcore times in there, and is on the verge of death on his release.
The story goes on, but the point is, you ought to read the book so I’m not gonna re - tell it here. There were 2 key moments for me after that, where this book inspired strong emotions. One was the death of a major character which left me bawling (I don’t often cry at books, mind!) and the other was the end, where I was disgusted to find that I couldn’t find out what happened to Lin next! I went on Wikipedia and they said GDR was going to write more books in a series about Lin – hurry up you bastard!! Although this book is allegedly based on his life, so maybe GDR doesn't know what is going to happen next yet.
By the way, I saw a picture of GDR and he looks like a mixture between a hippy and a hardened criminal.