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The Sly Company of People Who Care Paperback – May 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The narrator of this debut, an Indian national, is a 22-year-old cricket reporter who has left Bombay to explore Guyana's exotic landscape and people ("Guyana was elemental, water and earth, mud and fruit, race and crime, innocent and full of scoundrels"), many of whom he befriends. In vigorous yet lyrical prose employing a pungent vernacular, Bhattacharya describes Guyana's horrid heat and thunderous rain in sensuous detail: the pretentious, decaying buildings of its capital, the unbearable humidity that settles on the men who go "porknocking," or searching for diamonds in the muddy soil. Violence breaks out easily during nights of drinking, yet people care about strangers. The narrator falls for a seductive young woman, but their first trip together—to Venezuela—veers from romance to threat when he re-enters Guyana without papers. In fact, a dark undercurrent of dread haunts the novel, and what begins as a desultory adventure story delivers the shock of multiple betrayals. Bhattacharya's distinctive voice, which incorporates both Guyanese and Indian dialects, results in an authentic and sybaritic tale. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Exuberant and often arresting… It's impossible, reading Bhattacharya, not to be reminded of V.S. Naipaul.” —Dinaw Mengestu, The New York Times Book Review


“Bhattacharya’s gift for reproducing the rhythms and intricacies of his characters’ speech…places him in the company of Mark Twain. He understands the world by listening to it.” —The New Yorker


“A deft synthesis of travelogue and bildungsroman, by turns antic and satisfying." —The Wall Street Journal


“Bhattacharya’s voice is thick with bizarre humor, poetic pidgin, and images lush with faraway magic.” —The Washington Post


The Sly Company of People Who Care is a travel novel that reads like award-winning journalism . . . From the novel’s very first line, we know we’re in the care of a narrator unmatched in his lyricism and sensitivity.” —Alice Gregory, The Boston Globe


“So original and spirited, so thrillingly alive . . .An exhilarating first novel.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune


“A love letter to Guyana . . . The Sly Company of People Who Care is beautifully written and brims with charm . . . Fascinating.” —Financial Times (London)


“Bhattacharya's writing bursts with as much passion as the tropical downpours he describes . . . Some of the most beguiling prose to emerge from the Caribbean.” —David Dabydeen, The Guardian (London)


“This ferociously gifted writer has already been hailed as the natural successor to the great Naipaul—and yes, he is that good.  His narrator has a charming, confident voice that engages instantly and his descriptions of landscapes and people are ravishing.” —The Times (UK)

“Mesmerizing. . . beguiling. . . compelling. . . Bhattacharya sheds great light into this little-known corner of the planet, [forcing] us into a reconsideration of the world.” —The Independent (UK)

“Bhattacharya elevates his tale above the common travelogue by meditating on colonialism’s legacy and questions of identity, layering his thoughtful explorations with raunchy creole dialogue and enthusiastic reggae references. . .  Four stars.” —Time Out (New York)

“With his singular voice, near-tangible narrative descriptions, and apt rendering of the nature of wanderlust, Bhattacharya transforms an ordinary travel tale into an epic journey. . . He deftly captures youth’s angst and the poignant ironies of running away on a journey of self-discovery.” —The Daily Beast

“[I’ve] seldom read a book with so much energy, and on almost every page there were little stylistic twists or felicities which had me stopping to admire them. The novel is a testament both to his potential and to his achievement.” —Nick Laird, 2012 Ondaatje Prize judges’ committee, author of Utterly Monkey 

“Alternately lyrical, abrupt, whimsical, sexy, informative, seductive and always full of surprises . . . The language works a hypnotic magic and you soon feel you’re in Guyana yourself.” —Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies


“What a voice, what a startling, funny, charming, provocative voice! Rahul Bhattacharya’s narrator is a true wanderer and a gifted poet of description. The journey he takes us on, through Guyana, through histories and selves, is a wonder.”—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask


“Quick, cool, astonishingly assured, it awakens with its landscapes and characters a Conradian sense of wonder.” —Pankaj Mishra, author of Temptations of the West


“Words as musical notes, a book as symphony . . . An exotic locale and lyrical language make for a dazzling debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)


 “Rahul Bhattacharya is the writer we’ve been waiting for, and his debut novel, The Sly Company of People Who Care, is that very rare thing: a great local fiction written by an outsider . . . for the first time in years I wished a book longer.” —Brendan de Caires, The Caribbean Review of Books

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330534734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330534734
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,184,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
(3.5 stars) A reporter of cricket matches when he first came to Guyana, Rahul Bhattacharya returns again later to spend an entire year meeting new people and visiting places most outsiders never come to know. The result is a unique travel book of great originality, chock full of outlandish characters, trips to places the reader will not even have imagined, and risky adventures to the interior. Not a "novel" by any definition that I have ever read, the resulting book offers new glimpses into a lesser known part of the world, vibrantly described by a narrator who is obviously a stand-in for the author.

Though he has "fictionalized" characters' names and some events, the places, social and political history, and reports about some documented recent events in Georgetown are obviously real. The book feels like a wonderfully described diary, with events unfolding more or less at random, instead of a carefully planned and organized novel. The only character here with any real depth is the narrator, and he is constantly on the move in search of new adventures. Virtually all the other characters here live "on the edge" and speak a variety of pidgin, with the dialogue often containing vocabulary that the reader must figure out by context.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I follows the unnamed narrator as he makes the acquaintance of "Baby," who has just been released from jail after killing his partner, and who is anxious to return to his occupation as a "porknocker," someone who travels to the watery interior to pan for gold or diamonds. Before long, the narrator is traveling with him to the interior.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By aruna on April 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Since this book is touted by both author and publisher as a novel, although it isn't, I'll go ahead and review it as a novel; as such it deserves zero stars, for I don't think I have ever read such a jumbled hotchpotch of a "novel" in my whole life. It has no shape, no direction, no unifying spirit. It's split into three distinct parts unconnected to each other, of which the first is travelogue pure, the second an info-dump on history, geography and politics, and the third a lust-story that has as much frisson as a damp candle-wick, and fizzles out accordingly.

Part One: I wasn't even 30 pages into the "novel" before I felt like throwing it at the wall, mostly because I saw through the veneer and recognised it as an almost undisguised account of the author's own experiences during a year in Guyana. He likes to demonstrate his coolness by internalising Creolese, using it in his own narrative, as if to say "look at me! I'm not an intellectual with enough money to spend a year doing nothing except gather research for a book; I'm one of "them"! "Them" being the wasters and down-and-outers of which there are indeed far too many in Guyana. Their sound-bites are perhaps meant to impress the Western literary set (who have never been to Guyana nor heard this quaint patois before) with their deep wisdom; other Guyanese will shake their heads and see the banality and everyday ordinariness of these people and their dialogue. (Note to reader: Guyanese are not all wasters and down-and-outers. And some of us can speak grammatical English. Imagine that!)

So, the characterisation of this "novel" doesn't work. The dialogue goes nowhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Raghu Nathan on December 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The most interesting thing about this first novel from Rahul Bhattacharya is that it is pre-dominantly written in the English spoken by the Guyanese underclass. The language is unique and endearing in its own way and is irreverent towards the accepted English grammar. I am amazed that the author, an Indian from India, could have such a good grasp of it after staying for just a year in Guyana. The book, though billed as a novel, reads more like a travelogue.

The novel is in three parts. In the first part, the narrator, whose name is never specified as far as I can remember, travels into the interior to engage in some 'porknocking' ( the act of panning for gold /diamonds) with a man called Baby. Baby himself has just been released from prison after serving time for killing its partner. The narrative takes you from Georgetown across the rain forests and then to Potaro, some native American territory and also the Kaieteur waterfalls, which is described as spectacular.
The second part deals with some political and socio-cultural history of Guyana, delving into the racial tensions between the Afro-Guyanese and the East Indians. Though I have never been in Guyana, I have read about this racial divide in books written by Guyanese cricketers of East Indian origin. One can see that even after more than a hundred years after arrival, the Indians are referred to as 'coolies' colloquially by the others. For their part, the Indians have their share of prejudices against the Afro-Guyanese, regarding them as lazy, violent people.
The third part takes the narrator to Venezuela in the company of sexy, alluring Jankey Ramseywack, an Indo-Guyanese girl who wants to escape life away from her abusive husband.
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