The Mountain Shadow (Gregory David Roberts)
Synopsis (Goodreads): A sequel to SHANTARAM but equally a standalone novel, The Mountain Shadow follows Lin on further adventures in shadowy worlds and cultures. It is a novel about seeking identity, love, meaning, purpose, home, even the secret of life…As the story begins, Lin has found happiness and love, but when he gets a call that a friend is in danger, he has no choice but to go to his aid, even though he knows that leaving this paradise puts everything at risk, including himself and his lover. When he arrives to fulfil his obligation, he enters a room with eight men: each will play a significant role in the story that follows. One will become a friend, one an enemy, one will try to kill Lin, one will be killed by another…
I’m in a grumpy kind of mood today, and having just finished this book, writing the review is going to give me a great reason to rant!
As the one star will straight away tell you, I did not like this book…at all. In fact, I haven’t disliked a book this much since I gave up on Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett, which I had to stop reading because it was so tedious to get through that if I had persisted, I would felt like I would never pick up a book again.
So. Mountain Shadow. Where to start? I am sure, like many before me, I picked up this book because I enjoyed Shantaram so much. Hence, yes, I did have rose-tinted glasses and high expectations.
80 pages in and I was already struggling with the writing and turns of phrase that were clearly an attempt to be philosophical / spiritual but just came across as pretentious.
In The Mountain Shadow, GDR reintroduced a few of the characters from Shantaram that made that book so enjoyable, and he also introduced a couple of new interesting ones such as Oleg, Naveen, Farzad and Randall. Although Abdullah, who was my favourite character from Shantaram, did make the odd token appearances, there was minimal development of his character and the parts where he came in just felt disconnected and disjointed from the rest of the book. As for Lin and Karla, and the development of their relationship, it felt too artificial and unnatural even though it’s meant to be the most important relationship of his life. Most of their conversations and interactions seemed to be a collection of one-liners and while I am sure there is a camp out there for love conquering all, is it really that easy to forgive someone who used and betrayed you??
So writing was pretty terrible, characterization was mediocre at best, which leaves us with plot. In a nutshell, there isn’t one.
Mountain Shadow deals with a post-Khaderbhai Mumbai and how the mafia world evolved following his death, so there was definitely potential for a good story. However, what GDR unfortunately did was introduce a lot of poorly connected stories, none of which were satisfactorily developed and then concluded in a rushed manner over the last couple of chapters. There was too much violence and none of the more human stories that made Shantaram such a good book. Also, Lin spent an inordinate amount of time on a mountain with a guru called Idriss, who just felt like a mouthpiece for spiritual philosophy that GDR somehow wanted to work into the novel – I didn’t get it. It was too preachy and just felt forced, with no connection to the already thin plot.
In summary – 872 pages of self-indulgent, badly characterized, poorly written drivel. Don’t bother.