I had been eyeing off the long-awaited sequel to Gregory David Roberts’ epic novel “Shantaram” for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to buying it yet. It was just before Christmas, and I’d mentioned the book to my partner’s mum and her eyes widened in horror. “Don’t buy it!” she told me, “I already bought it for you for Christmas! You’ll have to act surprised!”
Anyway, I ended up saving “The Mountain Shadow” by Gregory David Roberts for my trip to Indonesia earlier this year. Though not quite India, there’s something about hot, tropical nights that make for ideal reading conditions for this kind of book. The hardcover is gorgeous as well, with a textured jacket and the look of a slightly smudged print.
“The Mountain Shadow” picks up a couple of years after “Shantaram” left off. Australian jail-break Lin is out of the slums and living with his blonde bombshell girlfriend and, though he’s still working with the same gang he was in the previous novel, he’s off the streets and working in a cramped office doing forgeries. Everything is easier, but everything is different and with alliances shifting and Lin’s home life not as certain as he thought, Lin finds himself searching for answers to much bigger questions.
“The Mountain Shadow” is not the same kind of book as “Shantaram”. Where “Shantaram” is an action-packed slice of Mumbai street life, brimming with culture and memorable characters, “The Mountain Shadow” is a much slower, more contemplative read that is part murder-mystery, part spiritual awakening.
I must admit, I was a bit disappointed. Roberts is an incredibly evocative reader, and he has some lovely prose, but I did feel like this book was more of a series of profound statements he’d kept track of in a notebook and then jammed together rather than an actual story. There just wasn’t any of the tension or the same kind of cultural insights there had been in “Shantaram”. It was kind of like a flower slowly blooming, full of promise, only to reveal that it wasn’t necessarily worth the wait after all.
A fine holiday read, but more shadow than mountain.