Friday, 4 September 2020

Shantaram



Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I've had a copy of this on my shelf for years. I bought it after a succession of people told me how good it was. I just never got around to reading it, so I decided to get it on audiobook instead.

It was all they said it was.

Total immersion of the heart, the head, and the Bombay underworld. 

Just, brilliant. 

It's a semi-autobiographical work. So, it's based really closely on Gregory David Roberts's life as an escaped Australian convict. He broke out of jail and went on the run in India. The way it's written, it's so believable as to make you suspect 90% of it is probably true, but having watched a few interviews and read more about it, the question perhaps lies in our definition of truth. There is a certain truth all novelists recognise in fiction. This book is full of that type of truth.

A lot of real things, and a lot of things made up of little pieces of real things.

It's a very clever and compelling piece of work. I highly recommend it. I went back to get the sequel The Mountain Shadow on Audible, but could only find it in German. I don't think I would enjoy that as much, as I don't speak German.

It was sort of sad, as an author, to read that he originally intended there to be four books, but as it took 11 years to write the sequel and he's over 60, he put that idea aside. Time - there's never enough of it. The older a writer gets, the more aware of that they become. 

A particularly amazing point about this book is that he started writing it twice in prison, after he was eventually recaptured, but after completing 300 pages, the manuscripts were destroyed by prison guards both times. I know how soul-destroying it is to lose five pages to a Word malfunction. The thought of having to start an entire novel again from scratch would break me.

So glad he was made of sterner stuff.

I usually include a few quotes from the book in my reviews, but honestly, this was such an epic, and it was all so good, that looking through the length of my clip list just exhausts me. All I can say is, pick up a copy.

If you prefer audiobooks, Humphrey Bower narrated it perfectly. Really brought it to life and listening to a first-person narrative spoken by an actual person is always engaging.

Excellent and mysterious stuff.

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