Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram. In a word: beautiful.

One of the greatest books I have ever read. At 936 pages, it is also the longest book I have ever read (cover to cover).

Published in 2004, the book is a novel, based on the life events of the author, Gregory David Roberts. ‘Lin’ is a fugitive, escaping from an Australian maximum security prison, he finds himself living in the underworld of Bombay, India.

He quickly adjusts to Bombay life through his guide, Prabaker, who leads Lin into a melting pot of slum dwellers, gangsters, brothels, love and war.

The story revolves around the interconnection of love, betrayal and fate. With no identity, Lin is led through a myriad of adventures; rapidly socialised into an expatriate community within the hidden walls of Bombay.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts


He sets up a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers and later becomes attached to the Bombay Mafia – leading him to prison, torture, and eventually, war. His mentor and mafia boss, Khader Khan, provides Lin with multiple philosophical life lessons and the practice of the Bombay mafia. A constant battle throughout the novel is Lin’s infatuation with Karla – beautiful, mysterious and dangerous. As the story evolves, the characters collide in a storm of past connections, betrayal and murder.

At its true heart is, India. This work provides a beautiful depiction of a great country- in particular, the beauty of Bombay. The sights, sounds and smells come to life through Roberts’ writing. My only criticism is the length: at 936 pages, it felt too long. Nonetheless, this is a great read.

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. (from the book cover)

The Author

Gregory David Roberts was born in Melbourne, Australia. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for a series of armed robberies, he escaped and spent ten of his fugitive years in Bombay-where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured, he served out his sentence, and established a successful multimedia company upon his release. Roberts is now a full-time writer and lives in Bombay. (from the book cover)

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7 thoughts on “Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

    1. It felt as though the book could have been spread across 2, maybe 3 volumes. The first 6-700 pages were a good fluid read, it dipped after that for me, and perhaps I didn’t pay as much attention to the ending as I should.

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