A close friend of mine recommended this book to me and whilst he is planning on going on his travels alone, something which was incomprehensible not too long ago. He spoke to me about loneliness, about the punishment of love but how he never imagined travelling alone. It all poignantly reminded me of the book he recommended….Shantaram; this is the book I’ll be reviewing today.
This a novel based on the life of the author Gregory David Roberts. We meet Lin, our narrator, an escaped convict with a false passport having fled from a maximum security prison in Australia. He arrives in the ‘underworld’ of Bombay and here, in the teeming streets of people, he hopes to escape his previous life and disappear. Accompanied by guide and soon to be faithful friend Prabaker, they soon find themselves surrounded by the hidden society of beggars, gangsters, holy men, prostitutes, soldiers, actors, other Indians and other exiles, hoping to create a new life in India, hoping to seek here what they are unable to find elsewhere. Without a home, without an identity or a family, Lin searches for love and a meaning. Unfortunately he also ends up entering the world of the Bombay Mafia. A world of war, prison torture, murder and betrayals.
“The soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no colour or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled.”
The above quote is in relation to his culture. Lin was trying to find a meaning, a purpose and instead all he found was confusion and conflicting evidence to what his culture had taught him. He reflects and realises that the soul is a wonderful thing of freedom. Which should be embraced,
“One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.”
The quote above is a quote I sent to my friend at the time when I read it. I loved this quote and I felt as though I could relate to it. Love is a major theme in Shantaram, throughout we see those falling in love, suffering for love, killing for love and doing whatever they can for love. In this novel, it’s not fun to be in love but love is necessary for survival. Throughout the novel, we explore the rift between love and trust. Elsewhere in the novel Lin makes this statement;
“The fugitive loves more people than he trusts, whereas the law-abider trusts more people then he loves.”
Therefore showing that love is a hallmark of life on the run – when one cannot trust people, one can only trust love. Lin is a romantic through and through. He strives and starves for love. Love to Lin, is the equivalent to fate.
This novel brings India to life! It’s a long novel ( well over 900 pages!) but it takes you on an adventure and you can tell there’s a passion and a love for India right from the start. Parts of this book are slightly unbelievable for it to be real but equally I admire the author.
If you have time to sit down with this beast of a read or enjoy travel or love India then this is the book for you!
And for my friend if you are reading this, thank you for introducing this book into my life and I hope your travels brings you much enjoyment and discovery about yourself.
Until next time,