Book Review: Shantaram
With every book I read, there is a story of how I came to know about the book. It’s someone referring me to it or something pointing me to it — in the case of Shantaram, it was a simple suggestion — that someone should make a movie out of it — that intrigued me. And of course, the person that make that suggestion.
Had I realized that how long the book was before I bought it, I mayn’t have bought it. It was a novel and it was 900 pages — terrible combination for my liking.
But once I started reading it, there was no looking back. The quality of prose engaged me. The fact that this is at least a partially real story entwined me to the book. The very many characters — sometimes overwhelming — had a personality and a role and importance of their own, that it wasn’t really all that overwhelming. I almost couldn’t help myself thinking — as I went through the pages and chapters — imagine how that page or chapter will look on a big screen as opposed to a daunting book. And even questions such — who would make the best Lin. Or Karla or Didier or Prabhaker.
The first thought that came to my mind as I was approaching the end of the book was — could all of this happen to the life of one man? Actually, could all of this be true at all?
Some characters speak flawed English — we call it Inglish — a portmanteau of India and English — but the problem is the Inglish the author quotes the characters as speaking — wasn’t really the Inglish you might hear. After all, the vocabulary was great, the sentencing was sophisticated. It sometimes seemed like the author created a perfectly English sentence and introduced errors to make it sound like Inglish.
The thing with fiction books, or in general novels, is latitude. Author gets to describe every character, every object, the sky, the waters, the colors in so much detail — when you start wondering if you really need that level of detail to get to the next event. But that misses the point of reading them — unlike non-fiction, where the objective is to get to the end of the book, with fiction, the journey is the end. The words, the adjectives, the descriptions are as important, if not more important, than the end itself.
With any type of book, I usually tend to conclude that they could have covered the book in half the number of pages. Not with this book — it was perfect, it was speed-read material, it was interesting, it was engaging, it had drama, it had philosophy, it had romance, it had everything from drugs to murder, and everything in-between.
Good pick, I tell myself. And thank you, I tell my friend.