Book Reviews

Book review: Shantaram

I finally finished the book ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. I reckon this is the longest I’ve ever taken to read a book. I started in March 2008 and finally finished it in November 2008 — with 3 breaks in between as it was too bloody long!

I have heard great reviews about it from Aussies and Indians alike. Unfortunately, it didn’t do it for me. It was too long. It was too detailed and dry in some cases, which I personally felt were not needed. And, it was too unrealistic. It was only when I was three-fourths into the book that I found out it was not ‘real’ but based on some experiences of the author. In spite of knowing that, I felt that it was a bit too fantastic. Don’t get me wrong — I love fantasy (Harry Potter is one of my favourites). But when an author is trying to base the story within a real society, you expect a bit more realism.

The experiences with the underworld, the bits about going to Afghanistan in the war, and I guess, almost, the lack of emotions (to me) didn’t do it. On the other hand, I did enjoy the sections when the main character lived in the slums and the way in which he talks about Bombay.

Bombay — in India, it is the city where you go to make your dreams come true. I think the author has depicted Bombay quite well. The sights, the sounds, the smells — they are all very vivid in the book. For me personally, the description of some places brought back find memories.

Leopold’s — that was where I had my first drink

Cafe Mondegar — was where my friends and I hung out sometimes after college

Colaba Causeway — I’ve walked through there heaps of times.

Fort — yet another long walk for me on some days

So while the book did bring back some memories, it didn’t do much else in terms of substance and storyline.

Who knows, maybe Hollywood might change things around?

I would like to hear what others who have read the book thought of it.

Until next time,


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  • Kartikey
    20 November 2008 at 10:23 am

    Not read the book.
    But Megha Swamy on ‘The Young India’ met and interviewed the author a month back. She said she’d write a story on the meeting, but has since disappeared.

    You had your first drink at Leopold. it’s nice to remember. Memories.

  • Smita
    20 November 2008 at 2:05 pm


    Bought this one few weeks back and is in my to read list soon…

    Lets see how I find it…

    Great review…

  • Raahi
    22 November 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I hadn’t event heard of Leopold’s! My knowledge of Mumbai sucksss as I’ve been told time and again by many people I’ve met in the US.

    I totally agree with your review. It took me 3 months to plod through the book too and as much as I liked some of the writing, I thought it was waaay too long. When I finally finished it, it was more like a triumphant feeling than a content and happy/thoughtful feeling that I’d expect after reading a good book.

    Big books are over-rated. Except book 4 and 5 of the HP series:) Give me ‘Of Mice and Men’ or ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ over a ‘Shantaram’ anyday!

  • Psych Babbler
    22 November 2008 at 10:50 pm

    @ Kartikey: Will check out the site to see when it is published.

    @ Smita: You have to let me know how you found the book…and how long you took to read it! šŸ˜›

    @ Raahi: I think my knowledge of Leopold’s and Mondy’s was only because of going to college around there. And you’ve hit the nail on the head with feeling triumphant rather than reflective/content upon finishing the book. That’s exactly what it was — I was almost counting down the pages to finish and not out of eagerness to know the ending or anything.

  • Braja
    26 November 2008 at 8:05 am

    Thank God for that…I am an Aussie living in India, and I thought I was the only one who was bored by this book, who thought it was too long winded, too much praised…I mean, he’s a good writer, but it was just too much of everything and somewhat irritating…

  • Aathira Nair
    26 May 2011 at 10:19 am

    Just reading the book presently..have been at it since march 2011, n hoping to finish it by June 2011. The complete scene of Bombay is all that comes alive to me through this book..and also how a man could truly experience what he says he has been through there…. I’ve been to bbay very less but then the portrayal is so apt !

  • Psych Babbler
    26 May 2011 at 11:13 am

    Welcome here Aathira! Haha…looks like you are taking as long as I did…do
    let me know what you thought about the book after you finish. Will be nice
    to know!

  • Reema Sahay
    7 March 2013 at 7:35 pm

    This book has been with me since ages, atleast 7 years. I am yet to read it though šŸ™