The Squirrel
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Shantaram

5/5, 5 from 2 reviews
Abe Books ISBN:
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Australian convict and ex-junky escapes prison and flees to India.
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Recent Reviews

  1. usedtocare
    Shantaram
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 29, 2018
    I read 3 or 4 books a week. I write and I have been published.
    I was given this 1000 page magnum opus a few years ago from a professor of English Literature I was fucking.
    We broke up shortly after and somehow this hardcover brick escaped the ensuing purge.
    I am no longer young and there are too many celebrated authors for me to waste my time on first efforts of one hit wonders.
    I moved 3 times and this brick seemed to cling to me despite my lack of interest in cracking the hymen of its spine.
    A few years later, I found myself on the Trans-Siberian Express from Beijing to Moscow and was forced to use my light (pre-kindle) portable library as toilet paper.
    By the time we reached Irkutsk I had nothing left to read or to wipe with.
    I traded an Ipod for this book knowing it would get me through 4 days of birch trees on the Siberian steppe..
    I did not care which purpose it would ultimately serve.
    If you felt Oprah's judgement influenced your opinion of A Million Little Pieces stop reading and get the hell out of my review.
    I don't give one unwiped shit if this story is fiction or not.
    This book is not high art.
    Its literary structure is a disaster.
    It meanders so discretely through first drafts that should have been at least 3 separate attempts at a book.
    HOWEVER, if you want to embark on a journey that will haunt you for the rest of your life...
    READ THIS BOOK.
    150 pages in, I was so deeply attached to the characters that I would have sold my body for 10 grams of loperimide or a wheel of brie.
    Its almost impossible to share the impact of this book with anyone who has not read it.
    If you have not read it, put down whatever is on your bedside table and let your inner Walter Mitty escape.
    If you are not taking sick days to finish it then embrace your mediocrity.
    You don't deserve this book.
    I have nothing further to offer than the excellent initial review provided.
    READ THIS BOOK and PM me your scorn if you disagree with my bait.
    2 members found this helpful.
  2. The Squirrel
    One of the greatest reads of all time
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 24, 2018
    Pros
    • + Great quotes, excellent prose, fantastically interesting, beautifully descriptive,
    Cons
    • - Only 944 pages, not as true as you are first led to believe
    This book is said to be loosely based on a true story, and as such has come under much scrutiny for being more fiction than the author initially led on..

    Though it doesn't deal exclusively with the main character's drug use, there is a chapter or two which provides a very vivid depiction of his heron use and subsequent withdrawal. All in all though this remains one of the greatest reads for me to date, fiction or not it is exceptionally well written and contains a wealth of quotes for you to ponder over in the years to come, well worth a read.

Book Details

  1. Book Type:
    Author:
    David Gregory Roberts
    Publisher:
    Scribe Publishers
    ISBN-10:
    0312330537
    ISBN-13:
    9780312330538
    Pages:
    940
    In 1978, Roberts was sentenced to a 19-year imprisonment in Australia after being convicted of a series of armed robberies of building society branches, credit unions, and shops. In July 1980, he escaped from Victoria’s Pentridge Prison in broad daylight, thereby becoming one of Australia's most wanted men for the next ten years.

    The protagonist Lindsay (according to the book, Roberts' fake name) arrives in Bombay carrying a false passport in the name of Lindsay Ford. Mumbai was supposed to be only a stopover on a journey that was to take him from New Zealand to Germany, but he decides to stay in the city. Lindsay soon meets a local man named Prabaker whom he hires as a guide. Prabaker soon becomes his friend and names him Lin (Linbaba). Both men visit Prabaker's native village, Sunder, where Prabaker's mother decided to give Lin a new Maharashtrian name, like her own. Because she judged his nature to be blessed with peaceful happiness, she decided to call him Shantaram, meaning Man of God's Peace. On their way back to Mumbai, Lin and Prabaker are robbed. With all his possessions gone, Lin is forced to live in the slums, which shelters him from the authorities. After a massive fire on the day of his arrival in the slum, he sets up a free health clinic as a way to contribute to the community. He learns about the local culture and customs in this crammed environment, gets to know and love the people he encounters, and even becomes fluent in Marathi, the local language. He also witnesses and battles outbreaks of cholera and firestorms, becomes involved in trading with the lepers, and experiences how ethnic and marital conflicts are resolved in this densely crowded and diverse community.

    The novel describes a number of foreigners of various origins, as well as local Indians, highlighting the rich diversity of life in Mumbai. Lin falls in love with Karla, a Swiss-American woman, befriends local artists and actors, landing him roles as an extra in several Bollywood movies, and is recruited by the Mumbai underworld for various criminal operations, including drug and weapons trade. Lin eventually lands in Mumbai's Arthur Road Prison. There, along with hundreds of other inmates, he endures brutal physical and mental abuse from the guards, while existing under extremely squalid conditions. However, thanks to the protection of the Afghan mafia don "Abdel Khader Khan", Lin is eventually released, and begins to work in a black market currency exchange and passport forgery. Having traveled as far as Africa on trips commissioned by the mafia, Lin later goes to Afghanistan to smuggle weapons for mujahideen freedom fighters. When his mentor Khan is killed, Lin realizes he has become everything he grew to loathe and falls into depression after he returns to India. He decides that he must fight for what he believes is right, and build an honest life. The story ends with him planning to go to Sri Lanka, which lays the premise for the sequel to this book.

    While parts of the novel, based on Roberts' known biography, read as reportedly factual, numerous significant claims by Roberts are impossible to verify and are disputed by the family of one of the main Indian characters in the book.A few parts of the story, such as Roberts' criminal history and escape from prison in Australia, are a matter of public record, while others remain harder (or impossible) to verify.

    There is a great deal of debate as to where the boundaries lie between fact and fiction in the book. Roberts has stated the characters in the story are largely invented, and that he merged different elements taken from true events and people into such events and characters like Prabaker 'of the big smile'. Prabhakar Kisan Khare was a real-life individual, as are the members of Khare family from the book (Kisan, Rukhma, Kishor and Parvati Khare) whose names appear on government issued identity cards. The family resides in the Navy Nagar slum where the lead character Shantaram also lived. The Khare family disputes many of Roberts' claims, although they acknowledge close association with Gregory Roberts in the 1980s. Prabhakar died in an accident in 1988 in circumstances matching the event in the book. In March 2006, the Mumbai Mirror reported they may have discovered the inspiration for the big smile of the character Prabhakar as belonging to a still living cab driver called Kishore, who took Roberts to his home village. Kishore Khare, brother of Prabhakar, who drives tourists around Mumbai, has told his story.
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