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The Sly Company of People Who Care: A Novel Hardcover – April 26, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374265852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374265854
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,507,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)
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Review

“Rivers and waterfalls flow through the mesmerising narrative of this beguiling debut novel. . . The story powerfully juxtaposes joy with horror. Nature is majestically described, and Bhattacharya skilfully sketches the interactions between humans and a bewilderingly beautiful landscape . . . Bhattacharya displays an artful handling of his own narrative. The tributaries of stories open up into the main swell of narrative. The greatest joy is in the novel's unexpected twists and turns, so the reader shares the narrator's wonder at the flash of toucan, the sudden glint of a river, or a floating blue butterfly.”—Anita Sethi, The Independent
 
“To follow in the footsteps of the likes of Naipaul is a daunting journey, but Bhattacharya, in his first novel, has shown a talent reminiscent of the early works of that great pioneer.”—David Dabydeen, The Guardian

“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

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
 
“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)

“[The Sly Company of People Who Care]'s heart lies in the exuberant and often arresting observations of a man plunging himself a world full of beauty, violence and cultural strife. It's impossible, reading Bhattacharya, not to be reminded of V.S. Naipaul.” — Dinaw Mengestu, The New York Times Book Review

“Bhattacharya's understanding of displacement and drifting comes from a completely original place, and he has all of the humour and the sharpness of the young Naipaul, with none of the spleen. This book, and this writer, are here to last.” —India Today
 
“In vigorous yet lyrical prose employing a pungent vernacular, Bhattacharya describes Guyana's horrid heat and thunderous rain in sensuous detail. . . Bhattacharya's distinctive voice, which incorporates both Guyanese and Indian dialects, results in an authentic and sybaritic tale.” — Publishers Weekly (starred)
 
“Words as musical notes, a book as symphony. . . An exotic locale and lyrical language make for a duzzling debut.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 
“[The Sly Company of People Who Care] is a lovingly delicate study of Guyanese culture, in which Bhattacharya captures the restlessness of youth, the yearning for new experiences, and the driving need of travelers to go beyond their own internal borders.” —Booklist
 
“An exceptional first novel, which leaves the reader to decide where facts lie and fiction rings true. . . A madcap cast of original characters abound. . . .Their explicit, rum-infused patois, more potent than V.S. Naipaul's Caribbean-speak, is addictive. . . It is certainly the best first novel by an Indian I have read in a long time.” — Outlook India
 
“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

 


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Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys quality writing, travel, and human introspection.
Kelly Mekdeci
He has an original style but accurately and faithfully recalls the Guyanese dialect and prejudices making it very easy to recognize the characters in Guyanese life.
GT Reviewer
The imagery, the stories, his manner of writing - you could smell, feel and touch the places and people.
Christine Franklin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hsiaoshuang on February 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The lyrical language reminds me of Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969).

Instead of adding to the already adequately-written reviews, I will give you two excerpts from the novel, one in the beginning and one at the end, for a taste of Sly Company:

Page 5:
I walked plenty in the early days. There were no shadows in Georgetown. A young town, poetic and wasted, its exquisite woodenness going to rot or concreted over, it was cleaved and connected by trenches which fumed, blossomed and stank. There were no tall buildings. Under the high equatorial sun, shade trees, some so large and spreading as the saman, rarely crept beyond their own peripheries. When 'sun hot', as them boys said, it had no place to hide.

Page 278:

The sun began to lower on Georgetown on the Atlantic. I walked in slow curlicues, unearthing new corners, new windows, new bruck-up moods and, with a start, like a cat leaping at my head, there appeared an old scene, that place there the site of a great washdown one time, this one here of a legendary winedown, and now the erstwhile residence of Mr Bhombal, the wet prints of his green longboots on the stairs.

In the evening it rained. Georgetown was so gorgeous when it rained. Its green shone and its white was washed, and the old woods, the greys and the blacks, they kind of gave off that fragrance of greying and blackening wet wood. Soon the streets were deserted.

Light crept like a thief out of the fragile wet houses. Somewhere in the drip drop dark a maga dog whined. And my tears, they kept returning at intervals, and I tried to purse them to no avail.
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