10 April 2013

Weekly Reads: Shantaram & Starvation Lake

Admittedly, I did not read both of these books this week. I read Shantaram while on vacation and it has taken me this long to put my thoughts down on paper.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Every time I have tried to sit down and write my thoughts out about Shantaram I come up against a wall. The further away from having read the book, the more I seem to dislike the story even though as a whole, I enjoyed the book. Confused yet?

When the description of this books reads "So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay." they were not kidding. In all honesty I felt like this title was too long. At 900+ pages, there were times where I felt like I was reading on auto-pilot and didn't really retain much of what I had just read. Part of me feels like it would have been better served had it been broken up in to two books so we could really digest what we were reading.

To keep this review from following in the same footsteps of being epic, I'm going to stick with bullet points.

  • The style of writing was a bit "odd" in my book. Most of it felt like we were reading the heros journal, which would have been a brilliant way to tell this story but there were times where it felt like the author tried too hard to be lyrical (especially during the intimate scenes between the characters) and it just didn't flow.
  • The star of the book was India herself. The way the author wrote about the country and her cities made it feel like she was a living, breathing soul.
  • The characters of this book were just slightly eccentric enough to make you believe you were reading an autobiography. While the book was "based" on Roberts life, there were times it felt almost too real which for me is the sign of a great storyteller.
  • The number of characters was a little ridiculous. I just don't feel like we needed to be introduced to every single person he encountered, especially when they weren't all needed to work with the flow of the story. 
I think my biggest "issue" with this book was my own inflated expectation of what I would get from having read it. It had been on my "to read" list for a very long time and came highly recommended by a friend whose opinion on books I value immensely  I wanted to feel different for having read it. I wanted to feel changed. Neither of those things happened and it was obviously, disappointing. Plus, it is not a book I could recommend to just anyone to read. It got to be pretty heavy at time, tedious even, but worth the challenge if you are up to it.   

Two confessions about this book.....
1) The genre of "mystery" really isn't my thing. While I do like a good psychological thriller, a "who-done-it" caper doesn't really peak my interest, but after meeting the author at an even this fall, I just had to pick up a copy and give it a try.
2) I really wasn't sure I was going to finish this one. I started it in January and just finished it Monday....errr.....early Tuesday morning. 

This book started off really slowly. In fact it wasn't until page 189 (I made sure to make note of that) that things really started to get interesting. So much so, I couldn't put it down. I was absolutely hooked and just had to know what happened next.

The characters and small town in this book were really well written. Having grown up and currently living in a small town in northern Michigan, I can tell you both of these elements of this were spot on. Lots of quirky, eccentric characters. Small town gossip and secrets no one likes to talk about. And ridiculous moments from the past everyone likes to hold onto.

Overall I enjoyed reading Starvation Lake. Like I said, mystery generally isn't a genre I gravitate to but I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.


  1. I love really big books but yeah, you're not really selling me on Shantaram! :)


Thanks for reading!

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