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The Sly Company of People Who Care

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  335 ratings  ·  68 reviews
In flight from the tame familiarity of home in Bombay, a twenty-six-year-old cricket journalist chucks his job and arrives in Guyana, a forgotten colonial society of raw, mesmerizing beauty. Amid beautiful, decaying wooden houses in Georgetown, on coastal sugarcane plantations, and in the dark rainforest interior scavenged by diamond hunters, he grows absorbed with the fan...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2011)
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2011
58th out of 154 books — 255 voters
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63rd out of 88 books — 172 voters


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Community Reviews

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Sharon
Exotica for the chattering classes.

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, a...more
Lisa
I liked the narrator’s voice from the very beginning of this deceptively simple story. The Sly Company of People Who Care is the tale of a young man who stumbles into a new culture and is beguiled by it. It’s a coming-of-age for him, and it’s about the coming-of-age of a decolonised country as well. And perhaps the question asked by that enigmatic title is, who cares about the cultural identity that’s formed from the wreckage of colonisation?
To read my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com...more
Neil
This book took me a while to get into, but oh what a book! Rahul Bhattacharya has done a beautiful job chronicling his (purportedly fictional) wanderings through Guyana and neighboring countries. Bhattacharya's prose is lyrical and poetic, he is an adept observer and an even better mimic who manages to entertain, enlighten and make you poignant all at the same time. The book is not specifically engaging, nor does it have much of a plot, but that is beside the point. The narrator meanders from on...more
Alix
I will say right off the bat my review for this book is biased. After having traveled and volunteered in Guyana for 2 months last spring my entire experience was relived in every page of this book. Bhattacharya's depiction of the surroundings, the interactions and vocabulary in the conversations of the people are so incredibly on point the entire book almost appeared as a flashback of my time there. If you haven't visited Guyana then this is the most accurate modern portrayal I have read in writ...more
Paul
quite an amazing book. If this is a novel, then we have a new definition of novel. It's kind of a guy knocking around the third world journal/travelogue/creative nonfiction that, thankfully, is NOT magic realism. You have to believe at least some of it happened to the author who, if you can't guess by reading his name, is Indian himself. The setting is Guyana, the same Jonestown Guyana we know of, but that has nothing to do with this book which sent me off to the atlas and taught me a whole lot...more
Elaine
Mar 03, 2012 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
The first 75% of this book is some of the best travel writing I've read -- seriously, it ranks up there with Rebecca West, Graham Greene, and (the oft-cited in this book) Naipaul. (But Bhattacharya's voice is thoroughly contemporary - his take on race (unlike the aforementioned) nuanced and reflective). Guyana springs to life in these pages, the beauty of the landscapes, the damp lively dereliction of Georgetown, the amazing diversity and vibrant voices of the people, even tastes (food and drink...more
Raghu
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 fir...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
A book this slow needs a reward for me finishing it. Having said that I like the things I learned from this book about Guyana and the people and life there as well as some small part of its history.

As a novel however this book is highly disappointing. The story is just followwing the main character around who is not following any other purpose than to look what's there and escape from his old life. But none of his personal issues are ever really discussed (or maybe I just missed them).

As a trave...more
Deandra K.
Reading some of the reviews, I have to wonder: Since when did we all subscribe to the concept that novels need structured plots and narratives to be good? Anyone heard of William Faulkner? I'm in no way comparing Bhattacharya to Faulkner, but hopefully you get the point.

I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons, some personal. I am a Guyanese-American who has yet to visit the country, but whose pride and roots lay solidly there. My parents (born and raised in the Indo-Guyanese countryside) imm...more
Akshay
Supposedly a novel, The Sly Company of People who Care, reads like a travelogue. The narrator is a cricket journalist, who’s taken a year off to go live in Guyana, a country he’s visited before, fleetingly, to report on a cricket match. The ‘novel’ is broken into three diverse parts, his exploration of Guyana’s interior with diamond-hunters, the travails of life as an ‘Indian National’ in Georgetown, and the possibly exciting, but mostly uncomfortable love(lust?) story. He has been compared to N...more
Kb
The style of this book is so similar to Open City that I'm baffled by my reaction to it. I suspect it is linked to my own prejudices. Cole's narrator moved partially in a realm I was comfortable with - that of a highly educated person in America, whereas Bhattacharya dealt with the lower-class people of Guyana, who are experts in everything I am not.

The description of Guyana and the surrounding areas are wonderful and lush. I enjoyed that he gave us the history of the country and explained how r...more
Denali
I imagine this will lead to a discussion with Rao but I thought this was just "eh," the average of some of the excellent bits and some of the not so great parts and some general structural problems. I walked into this hoping for a West Indian version of "English, August" (an excellent Indian slacker in a strange land book). I loved the descriptions of life in Guyana juxtaposed with "mid 20s what next" syndrome but this would have probably made more sense as a series of installments rather than a...more
Srikanth Mantravadi
The Sly Company of People Who Care is one of the most flavourful books I've read. It has a strong whiff of Guyana and South America because of the evocative writing of Bhattacharya who brings alive scenes and visions of the colourful place in this peculiar mix of autobiographical/ travelogue'ish fiction. It does take a while to get used to the writing because of the liberal use of Creolese (Lots of conversations going on)and Guyanese jargon. The only way forward is to persist rather than abandon...more
A.R.B.
Beautiful & strange language describing a 26-y.o. Indian journalist wandering around Guyana. It's not really about West Indies cricket, the Guyana seascape, or any tightly plotted moral lesson, but it's loaded w/how expressive & creative the local dialect is when talking about all those things & more—over cheap rum & blasting soca. As a reader with limited patience for indulgent use of dialect, I totally dug the sound of this book.
Jess
A young Indian journalist moves to Guyana for a while, where he languishes and luxuriates and occasionally gets into scrapes. Then he meets a woman and they go to Venezuela and we the readers discover he's not the man we thought. Cut out the woman stuff, and this could have been an interesting travelogue about the permeability of borders as well as about the multicultured society that makes up Guyana and most of the world.
Mimi Ford
This novel started out as a five star book! I loved the first half of the book! I grew up in Georgetown and it was exciting to read about the sites I'd seen and to envision them through someone else's perspective. There were things that Bhattacharya had seen that were completely lost on me because he was a foreigner and I a local. Bhattacharya did a really great job of using vivid imagery. I could imagine standing in front of the markets, clock tower, and Sheriff Street as I read about it.

Howev...more
Moushumi Ghosh
Beautiful. Bhattacharya is Naipaul without the ire. A cool detached observer of the raw beauty and rich chocolatey Creole language that is both a truth and a lie and yet all Guyana. I need to read it in doses because it's so rich with metaphors and euphemisms some of which cut through to the meaning even better than plain English.
Mherriges
Sort of a coming of age story set in Guyana and its surrounds but as a young adult. U2's "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" sums it up best. Colorful story telling and the authors ability to spring the stark reality of its culture and characters from the pages makes this an interesting read.
April
I stopped reading this - I loved the narrator's voice but I couldn't not figure out what was going on or what the point was. It was going nowhere, or at least not fast enough to keep me interested. I found I was not a person who cared.
Prasad GR


There is something magically alluring about stories sans resolution. This is one such wonderful book in a loving, lyrical prose by an Indian writer. Can't wait for the next one from Rahul!
Nettle
I recognize the artistry of the writing, but I didn't get engaged by the characters, and the language itself overwhelmed my ability to follow the story.
Katharine Holden
An intriguing start, then fizzles into disorganization and self-indulgence.
Rahul Ravi
I really liked this. The book is about the musings of an Indian cricket writer who, intrigued by the culture and accent of the Caribbeans during one of his cricket tours to the islands, decides to spend an year there. He would roam the islands meeting interesting people most of them racially Indians whose fore-fathers came to the islands as indentured laborers and settled there. Their culture is mixed with African, Portuguese and Chinese. Their local songs have Hindi and Bhojpuri words.

Lot of na...more
Scott
It's an intriguing concept: an Indian comes to live in Guyana, one of South America's poorest countries, out of curiosity about the culture. Guyana has a unique post-colonial mix of cultures that are a legacy of its creation as a trading colony by the Dutch, its later period of British rule, and its relatively recent (1960s) independence. About 50% of the population are descendants of African slaves, about 40% are descended from Indians brought in by the British, and the rest are native South Am...more
Mark Staniforth
Rahul Bhattachariya's sprawling, ambitious debut novel charts the adventures of a 26-year-old Indian cricket journalist who, smitten with the country during a previous Caribbean tour, quits his job to return for a year to Guyana in search of aimless adventure.
Bhattachariya's (presumably) partly autobiographical character - his previous book about a cricket tour, 'Pundits From Pakistan', was rated the sport's fourth best ever by 'Wisden' - delves deep into this sparsely chartered, thickly jungled...more
Aurina
It has been a long, long time since I have felt so strongly about an Indian author. The last few Indian novels I've read have been mediocre at best. Although South Asian literature is less trendy now than it was a few years ago, there is still an abundance of banal, exoticized, mangos-and-sari crap. And while this book could easily have exoticized Guyana, Bhattacharya's genre-defying book is instead both affectionate and critical, admiring and matter-of-fact. The highlight though is Bhattacharya...more
Fred Gorrell
A young Indian man decides upon Guyana as a place to spend a year, having seen it when touring as a cricket reporter. He has no clear purpose in visiting but to enjoy time in a place he admired and avoid a straightjacket of expectations at home. The author is artful in revealing both the musicality and the particular perspective carried by the local idiom. He also portrays his young Indian man through a lens that sharpens focus as the story progresses: he is an aimless, spoiled individual not re...more
Niranjan M
The Sly Company of People Who Care is a rare book, in the sense that the imagery and vivacity of the characters it contains will be unparalleled. The book, which takes the reader from Guyana to Venezuela and back, deals with the wanderlust the author has, and deals with it beautifully. The vivid descriptions of the environs and the characters, down to the accent they would converse in, add further credibility to the book. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants an escape from the ordinary, b...more
Rajiv Jamkhedkar
Great debut. What mastery over words and the ambience of Guyana Rahul creates for is story and character is magical!
Chris Wharton
Although this novel reads more like the Indian author/narrator’s travelogue of a year in Guyana (which I suspect it largely is), with little plot and character development until the end, it is still a colorful and fun read thanks to the writing. The historical cultural mix of Asian Indian and African populations, Amerindian tribes, and various Europeans, and the resulting creolish lingua franca, are highlights as the author’s adventures and misadventures unfold in remote jungles, riverine villag...more
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Rahul Bhattacharya was born in 1979. A cricket journalist since 2000, he is now a contributing editor with Wisden Asia Cricket and has been writing for the Wisden Almanack since 2003, when he compiled the series overview of India in England, 2002. He also writes for the Guardian.
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