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Shantaram is one of the best novels I have ever read. While it is long (about 1,000 pages) and frequently harrowing it is so well written and uplifting that I found it hard to put it down. It is a story full of emotion and human philosophy - I would give it 6 stars if I could.
The amazing thing is that the novel is almost auto-biographical. Roberts was born in Australia and became a drug addict after a failed marriage and loss of custody of his daughter. He was imprisoned for 19 years for a string of armed robberies performed to support his heroin addiction. He escaped from prison and fled to Mumbai where lived in the Mumbai slums for years and set up a clinic in the slums to help his neighbours. He became an addict again and worked for the Mumbai mafia. Eventually he was recaptured and finished his sentence in Australia and then returned to Mumbai.
The story follows Roberts' life story pretty closely in fictional form. If you have been to Mumbai you will especially enjoy the beginning where the main character, Lindsay, is picked up by an Indian tourist tout thinking he would go to a luxury hotel - but Lindsay finishes up living in the slums with the tourist tout who becomes one of his best friends.
Shantaram is the name given by his Indian friends, or Linbaba or Lin, the larger-than-life hero, which means "man of God's peace". This is what his Indian friends think of Lin.
While it is not a book for the faint hearted, if you like a story with substance, philosophy and intense human emotions I am sure you will love this book. A book with nearly 1,000 five star Amazon book review ratings really speaks for itself.