Review: Shantaram by Gregory .D. Roberts

I recall Mum reading Shantaram years ago, probably when it first came out. A few months ago, while I was at a house party, we were in my friend's room watching him get a tattoo when a thick tree stump of a book on his bedside unit caught my eye. I instantly recalled the name and was drawn to it. As soon as I reached for it to take a look my mate told me to take it, he was sure I’d love it. He wasn’t wrong and even at a solid 900-odd pages, I blew through it in a matter of weeks.

“every human heartbeat is a universe of possibilities.” – Gregory David Roberts

I recall being told it was a true story, however, when I did a quick bit of research it appears that it was based on true events with a touch of artistic flair. Whatever the case, it’s a masterpiece. The story is so jaw-dropping that I’m not sure you could make it up. The retelling is probably helped by the fact that he had to write three times due to prison guards destroying it. Practice makes perfect, right?

“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.” – Gregory David Roberts,

Shantaram recounts the author’s escape from Melbourne’s highest security prison, making him Australia’s most wanted man. Then on a fake passport, he flees to Bombay, India. Whilst in Bombay he opens a medical centre in a  slum, is left to rot in a local prison, joins the mafia, and becomes a Bollywood actor. I don’t want to give too much away, but you get the gist, and that’s not the half of it.  The things this man has seen will leave you speechless, and if the story itself wasn’t enough to keep you hooked, Gregory David Roberts’ storytelling brings the novel to life, while making some quite profound statements along the way. 

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have – to hold on tight until the dawn” –  Gregory David Roberts

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but I think this is a book everyone needs to pick up at some point in their lives, all the more so if you are missing travelling or adventure as much as I am right now.  Shantaram is one of those books synonymous with backpackers, and this copy was no exception. Inside was a docket from a previous owners’ bus ride in India. Interestingly, I thought that upon finishing it I’d want to jump on the next flight to Bombay, however, my biggest takeaway was that I want to live my life to its fullest, in hope of creating my own adventure worth reading about.

“The more you try to be like someone else, the more you find yourself standing in the way.” –  Gregory David Roberts

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