I think I had "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts in my bookshelf for more than year now. I saw everywhere that this book is amazing and a brilliant read. Even Johnny Deep have bought the film rights to the book and will star in the movie adaption. But why did it take me so long to read? I was simply intimidated by the size of this book with its 930 pages, despite the very interesting the story line which is largely based on the author's own life. Only most of the characters are fiction.
In a nutshell, Lin escapes from an Australian prison and fled to Mumbai where he lived in the slums, established a free-medical clinic and later on got involved with the Mumbai mafia and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler and gunrunner.
Here are the good bits:
The book starts when Lin arrives in Mumbai so I didn't have any trouble getting into the book which was my biggest worry at the start. It also kept me interested but I never had this "I can't put it down feeling" about it. I enjoyed reading about the author's experience of the poorest parts of Mumbai and his colourful description of Mumbai. It was like he took me on a journey through the real Mumbai. I was amazed by how much the author loves Mumbai and India and he does a great job in showing his respect to India. Roberts described the characters very well and detailed. I had a clear pictures of the characters in my head. In particular, how all Indians wiggle with their head.
Not so good bits: Quite often I was confused by the number of similar names: Khader, Khaled, Abdul, Kavita, Modena, Maurizio. All those names appeared to be up come usually in the same context so it was a little hard to keep them apart.
In some parts the book was way too philosophical. I found myself skipping over the pages when a philosophical discussion came up. The book is packed with many events like death, fights, betrayals etc. but it appeared that those events all happened at the same time or on the same day - I didn't like that. I felt like the author did not know how to put these individual events separately into the story. Towards the end of the book, Roberts tries to show that everything which happened to him in Mumbai happened for a reason and was no coincidence. That felt like reading a crime book where you find out at the end who the killer is.
Over all, I can recommend to everyone reading "Shantaram". It is a colourful and enjoyable read.
Roberts is currently working on a sequel and rumour has it that the shooting for the movie will start in September/October this year.
My rating 4/5