Escape in May

May 1, 2012 – 2:15 pm


It’s May, and the monthly theme is *escape*.

Don’t forget to join in on our collaborative escape eBook challenge on FaceBook. There are prizes!

From Barbara, liaison librarian in Brisbane: a book review that could be an escapist read in more ways than one??

“I was cajoled into reading Shantaram by my Canadian relatives who wondered how it was that I had not read this epic Australian title. After all, since 2003, this book has been published in 60 editions in 17 languages. (see World Cat record) So popular is it that renewing isn’t an option at the public library, but then again that could have something to do with its length.
After two attempts, aided by the week’s leave necessary to complete a book of 933 pages, I have finally finished the book. It is a massive book with many stories and no less than 139 characters.

It is about an Australian bank robber who escapes jail and flees to Bombay where he takes up several careers – volunteer first aid officer in the slums, Mafia worker specialising in passport forgeries, and even Bollywood actor. There’s also a 132 page foray into Afghanistan smuggling arms for his Mafia boss.

The tale largely parallels the real-life story of the author, Gregory David Roberts I found parts of the book harrowing, like the description of a three-month stint being tortured in a Bombay prison or the detailed descriptions of the highs of heroin addiction followed by the utter despair involved in going “cold turkey”.
The book features unique philosophical asides. Even criminals have their codes of ethics and ”truth and courage” is the slogan of Khader, the Mafia boss, who Lin comes to revere and love. Pithy quotes like “the only kingdom that makes any man a king is the kingdom of this own soul” and “truth is a bully we pretend to like” pepper the book. The author often ponders about humanity “doing the wrong thing for the right reason”.
When I finished the book I went to and read about the book’s “two layers of allegorical depth” with its references to the Bible and Dante’s Inferno –that I mostly missed! My favourite character, in a novel that has more than its share of unsavoury characters is Prabaker, the taxi driver who acts as a guide for the book’s hero, Lin, when he first arrives in Bombay. There’s a couple of very amusing episodes in the book where Prabaker instructs Lin in the Indian ways. For instance Prabaker goes to great lengths in a mad scramble to save a seat in the 2nd class train carriage for Lin, and then is aghast when the Australian feels compelled to give it up for an elderly gentleman. On another occasion Prabaker is horrified when Lin showers in the nude. In India one must always wear underwear when showering! Shantaram is the name given to Lin by Prabaker’s mother. It means man of God’s peace.
Actor Johny Depp reportedly loved the book so much he wanted to star in the film version but apparently the movie version has been stalled”.

Do you have an escapist read? What reading do you escape into?


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