Review: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Where do I begin?

I normally can not stop myself from reading. I constantly have a book on the go and always know exactly what book I will be picking up next. Reading makes me excited. It makes me tired from late nights and setting my alarm clock an hour earlier so that I can get in some reading time before work.

However, this was not the case a couple of months ago. I stumbled from book to book flicking through a few pages, putting them down, finding a new book, getting bored, not knowing what I wanted to read and making no time for it at all….I WAS IN A READING FUNK.

I knew that it would take one book, the right book, to snap me out of it and sweet jesus that is what Shantaram did.

Having just read some other reviews slating this book, I need to throw my two-cents worth in and shout from the roof – tops that I absolutely adore it.

I have been lucky enough to travel to India before and this book transported me back to its people, its smells, its colours and its joy.

It also taught me of the ‘mafia’ lifestyle in the country. The shady goings on, the murders, the drug deals, the fights, the brawls and India’s raw wild side.

It is also a tale of love, of courage, of the human spirit and human will. It is spiritual. It is magnetic. It is a joyful. It summons up emotions that no book has ever made me feel before. I sat and found myself taking photos of its beautiful passages on my phone. Passages that I will return to.

Robert’s strength and resilience transfers itself to the reader through his fabulously rich words. Full of spirituality and love.

This book reaffirmed some of my own views and opinions. It made me from some new ones. It taught me.

I could go on for pages with love and admiration for this book but I won’t.

My clumsy words would not do it justice.

So I will leave you with some of its:

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears.”

“Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.”

“She loved the guy. She did it for him. She would’ve done anything for him. Some people are like that. Some loves are like that. Most loves are like that, from what I can see. Your heart starts to feel like an overcrowded lifeboat. You throw your pride out to keep it afloat, and your self-respect and your independence. After a while you start throwing people out—your friends, everyone you used to know. And it’s still not enough. The lifeboat is still sinking, and you know it’s going to take you down with it. I’ve seen that happen to a lot of people here. I think that’s why I’m sick of love.”

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”

“The best revenge, like the best sex, is performed slowly, and with the eyes open.”

“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.”

“A good man is as strong as the right woman needs him to be.” At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us.  What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone.  For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker.  I still love you.  And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest.  Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.

Looking at the people, listening to the breathing, heaving, laughing, struggling music of the slum, all around me, I remembered one of Khaderbhai’s favourite phrases.  Every human heartbeat, he’d said many times, is a universe of possibilities.  And it seemed to me that I finally understood exactly what he’d meant.  He’d been trying to tell me that every human will has the power to transform its fate.  I’d always thought that fate was something unchangeable: fixed for every one of us at birth, and as constant as the circuit of the stars.  But I suddenly realised that life is stranger and more beautiful than that.  The truth is that, no matter what kind of game you find yourself in, no matter how good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love.

Overkill I know but I couldn’t pick my favourites. I have underlined them all in my book.


One thought on “Review: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

  1. Pingback: Autumn reading list…done | bluntsbookblog

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