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So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum-security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.
Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.
As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.
Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas - this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mickey on 04-15-14
Probably the best performance I've listened to.
Much has been said and written about Shantaram. It is controversial because it is reported to be somewhat based on the author's real experiences in escaping prison in Australia and living in Bombay. However, Gregory David Roberts has been accused of exploiting the real people that his characters are based on and of making promises to the slum dwellers in Mumbai that he never follows through on. All that aside, it is an extremely interesting and emotionally compelling story in which you come to love the characters portrayed. Sure, the writing is sometimes not very good. In fact, I actually laughed at some of the prose describing the first time that Lin makes love with Carla. But, all in all, it was a story that I didn't want to end.
Humphrey Bower's performance was just fantastic. His pacing, creation of characters, accents and emotional performance was just perfect for this sweeping novel. I don't think I've ever heard as good a performance except maybe from Craig Wasson's narration of King's "11-22-63: A Novel". I will be looking for other books that he has narrated.
I thoroughly enjoyed Shantaram and was sorry when it was over. I hope that Gregory David Roberts' reported sequel is as good and the on again, off again, movie version doesn't ruin the book.
61 of 64 people found this review helpful
By Kathleen on 07-20-14
All about the narration
If I was reading this book I doubt I would finish it. Although much of the story is fascinating, I think all the philosophy and self aggrandizement would get very tedious. However, the narration is absolutely brilliant - the characters come to life, the different accents are flawless, it is hard to believe that one reader could have such a diverse range. Humphrey Bower has raised the bar for all readers.
53 of 56 people found this review helpful