“At once a high-kicking, eye-gouging adventure, a love saga and a savage yet tenderly lyrical fugitive vision..”


It’s been years since Shantaram was recommended to me, and being the bibliophile I am it’s just sat there on my rental TBR. Until a few months who when I spotted it at a book sale for £1 that is! So it went from my TBR in my head to my real one, but have you seen the size of it? 931 pages awaited me and every time I picked it off the shelf, I’d feel the weight of it and put it back again. I’ve been on a particularly good reading run lately, and after devouring three books in a week I decided it was time to start Shantaram.

I wasn’t necessarily going to read it, but I was ready to try out the first chapter and see what it was like. However, upon starting I couldn’t put it down and in the blink of an eye, and the first catch of breath I was on page 56. It also took me until then to realise it’s based on a true story!

Shantaram is pacy, but verbose, there’s purple prose but it works, and it may be 931 pages but it reads like a pacy thriller, keeping you turning to the next page! So David Gregory Roberts broke out from prison and run off to India on a false passport, and what follows is a tale of adventure, fun, and of course discovery too (he is in India after all, it’s the done thing).

Roberts’ portrayal of India, from slum life to the mafia, the food to the women, and everything in between is simply beautiful and some of the most descriptive writing I have ever read. You are almost there, right beside him, and although it’s a ‘voyage of discovery’ ‘philosophical’ novel, it doesn’t feel patronising. In fact while there is a lot of philosophy, I think it gets put in the box it’s in, simply because it’s set in India. It’s an adventure novel, and there’s plenty of it, and while I suspect that Roberts embellished the story somewhat, I don’t actually have a problem with that because it was an exciting and engaging read.

As I neared the end (suffering that issue when all the weight is in your weak hand and you can’t wait to finish) I was excited to read the climax. After all, the book started with his escape, and he wrote the book three times in prison after guards destroyed it, so we know he’s caught again. Shantaram had been so exciting all the way through I was waiting for some big shoot out, adrenaline filled, page turning action. Here’s where I was disappointed as the end is quite anti-climatic. Disappointed is harsh, it’s not disappointing and I’m so glad I read it, it’s up there with my favourite books, I just wish he hadn’t just faded to a whisper after 931 exciting pages.


Reviewed by:

Kath Cross

Added 4th November 2016

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Kath Cross