(This post was originally featured on Tattered Cover’s Blog Between the Covers)
A fugitive on the run from the law. An intimate portrayal of slum life in Bombay. Philosophical discussions on the origin of life and the meaning of right and wrong. Drug running, passport smuggling, shoot-em-up gunfights. A journey through the Afghanistan mountains and a grim look at war. Shantaram has it all and more.
Shantaram is the story of Lin, who escapes from a prison sentence in Australia by jumping over the front wall of the prison. He flees to Bombay where he spends time in a small village learning Marathi, lives in the slums and starts a free clinic, joins the Bombay mafia, and goes to war in Afghanistan (during the war with Russia in the 1980s). It’s a fun and entertaining read, but it’s especially interesting because it’s largely based on the author’s life.
Fiction is wonderful because it takes us to places we could never otherwise go, and it brings us deep into the minds and souls of characters we come to love or hate, or love to hate. But fiction based on real life is something even more unique: as we read it, we wonder at the man who did this, at the possibilities that exist outside our comfortable living room. We want to do more and know more. We may not want to join the Bombay mafia, but we certainly want to go do Bombay. At least I do!
You’ll be endlessly entertained as you read Shantaram. But more than that, your horizons will be broader and your dreams bigger when you put down this book.