Shantaram was a book recommended to me by many, and I was also warned that I should set myself to read the first few chapters before deciding on its fate. I was already aware of the plot, as it was the centre of many heated discussions when it was first published, but the depth to which each act was played out, made it a great but at times stretched read too. Many a times I found myself reading it with the speed and pleasure which I usually reserve for fiction, and hence forgetting that I was in fact reading a man's life, and not a fabricated story! I also feel that it is not a book which I will pick up again for a second read, as there is a suspense which has been woven into the plot, and hence once completed, it would be difficult for me o re-read it.
The writing style was very much like a fast paced thriller, with thoughts, dialogues and scenes strewn across the pages. This might also be a factor in contributing to the extremely strong feeling of a fiction, rather than a true life based story. There are some sections on philosophy, universe, human beings and these have been at times, I felt, overdone. I did lose interest in these paragraphs over a period of time.
I would like to add that, as a personal preference, I enjoyed the parts where the protagonist was in Bombay as compared to his short stints in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am not a Bombay-ite, and have been to Bombay very sparingly, so it was not my love for Bombay which made me enjoy these parts more… but maybe the India which was seen from the foreigner;s eye and his acceptance of the Indian-ness of many actions was something I could relate to more than his experiences outside Bombay. I will not say that his adventures outside Bombay are less interesting, but I believe the ones within proved to be more to my liking. I already did mention that the ending was not something which was very exciting for me. I agree that it is a true story, and cannot be made interesting, if it was not so in real life. But, I felt that he could have given a more rounded ending to the characters, whereas I did feel the ending was somehow abrupt and there was certainly more that I would have wanted to know.
It is certainly a book I would recommend book lovers to get their hands on, though it might take some time to progress in the first few chapters.