Friday, January 16, 2009

Roberts, Gregory David (Shantaram)

This book is for anyone who hates to have books end, who hates that they won't be able to interact with the characters any longer. Because it is one long, epic, many-faceted tale, taking you on this man's journey through Mumbai (Bombay) as a criminal, a slum-liver, a healer, a Bollywood insider, an expat, and a prisoner.

I actually am the type of person who reacts to lengthy books with a groan of despair that makes it hard to crack the spine to begin with. But there was so much variety in Shantaram that I never got tired of the tales told. If there is a better love story to India, Indians and Mumbai in particular, I don't know it (and I don't think The Far Pavilions does a better job). Roberts hearts India, and makes you desperate to visit and experience what he experienced (well, most of it).

Quibbles with the book: it's wrapped up a teeny bit too neatly. If, in fact, a lot of this actually happened to him personally, I want to know where he took liberties. Was it only the endings (of tales, of characters)? Additionally, all his characters are at heart good people with good motives-- criminals with hearts of gold and all that. A bit cliché, no? And lastly, while I understand he might not have had any direct contact with women and how they are treated in India, there is little to no mention of some of the horrors they endure in this country. I have to wonder how much else he left out.

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