Book Review: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

“I was thinking about another kind of river, one that runs through every one of us, no matter where we come from, all over the world. It’s the river of the heart, and the heart’s desire. It’s the pure, essential truth of what each one of us is, and can achieve.”

I really, really wanted to fall in love with Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t (sigh!). After having pushed through the first 300 pages, I finally gave up reading this novel, which has gained noteworthy praise from people around the globe.

Currently, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. Since I am born and bred in Mumbai, to me, Shantaram reads like an account of a fascinated foreigner who is taking in various aspects of the city. As I have experienced the vibe of the city, Shantaram didn’t bring anything new to the table. While some parts are enjoyable, the others seem too stretched, exaggerated, and unnecessarily metaphorical (like the quote mentioned above).

I also lost interest because the storyline wasn’t gripping enough as the author wasted pages mulling over trivial instances rather than getting to the point. To me, it felt like the author was under the influence when he wrote this 1000-page long autobiography. When I vented out my frustration, someone close to me assured me that it gets better eventually, but I really didn’t have the patience. I instead invest my time reading books that ‘truly’ deserve noteworthy praise.

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