Reviews for “The Sly Company of People Who Care”

USA & The Caribbean

‘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

‘Exuberant and often arresting… What a remarkable and exquisite world Bhattacharya has made.’ – Dinaw Mengetsu, The New York Times Book Review 

‘So original and spirited, so thrillingly alive. . . . An exhilarating first novel.’ – Minneapolis Star Tribune 

‘A deft synthesis of travelogue and Bildungsroman, by turns antic and introspective . . . so satisfying.’ – The Wall Street Journal 

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

‘A wonderfully uncategorizable book . . . Bhattacharya’s gift for reproducing the rhythms and intricacies of his characters’ speech . . . places him in the company of Mark Twain.’ – The New Yorker 

‘This terrifically titled book is also brilliant: entertaining, smart, irreverent about race and place, and well written in the extreme.’ – The Boston Globe 

‘From the novel’s very first line, we know we’re in the care of a narrator unmatched in his lyricism and sensitivity. . . Bhattacharya has established himself as a generous voice in fiction, one who knows how to thrill but never at the expense of his readers’ stamina.’ – Alice Gregory, The Boston Globe

‘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 

‘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)

‘Words as musical notes, a book as symphony—so it is with this debut novel . . . Dazzling.’ – Kirkus (starred review) 

‘Rahul Bhattacharya has given us a sweet, magical lime of a first novel. Lush with the irony and warmth squeezed into its paradoxical title—The Sly Company of People Who Care—this travel narrative set in Guyana rewards at every turn.’ – Charles V. Carnegie, Small Axe

‘Getting inside a culture and unravelling it for someone is tough enough if you’re from that culture. For someone outside the culture, the unravelling is virtually impossible, but a writer from India, Rahul Bhattacharya, has done it. He has written the definitive delineation of Guyanese culture in an enthralling book – “The Sly Company of People Who Care” – that will utterly captivate readers, particularly the ones with Guyanese blood in their veins . . . It will bring laughter to your belly, grimaces to your face, and water to your eye.’ – Dave Martins, Stabroek News 

‘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 . . . There are so many exquisite passages . . . for the first time in years I wished a book longer. Not just because of the prose — which is as good as anything by the major modern West Indian (or, indeed, Indian) writers — but also because of the authenticity of Bhattacharya’s impressions . . . ’ – Brendan de Caires, The Caribbean Review of Books



‘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 . . . 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

‘A love letter to Guyana. . . The Sly Company of People Who Care is beautifully written and brims with charm. . . Fascinating.’ – Financial Times

‘Mesmerizing. . . beguiling. . . compelling. . . [with] an entertaining cast of motley characters. . . Bhattacharya sheds great light into this little-known corner of the planet, [forcing] us into a reconsideration of the world.’ – The Independent

‘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 ravishing . . . We look forward to seeing this on (at least) the Booker longlist.’ – The Times

‘Clever, insightful and funny. With a style resonant of some of the best Asian writing by giants such as Naipaul and Rushdie . . .this debut novel has powerful charm.’ – Daily Mail

‘This entrancing fictional account of an Indian man travelling around Guyana reads as a bittersweet love letter to a forgotten colony, brought to life through attention to its music, language and, of course, cricket. As the narrator deciphers Guyana’s postcolonial society, comparisons to Naipaul are inevitable — but where this debut novel excels is in capturing the wonders of travel.’ – The Telegraph

‘Evocative and perceptive, it lifts the lid on a somewhat forgotten part of the world.’ – Big Issue

‘A strange, often almost hallucinatory book . . . consider[s] the questions of displacement and belonging that hum underneath quotidian Guyanese life but have universal resonance.’ – Metro



‘It’s the style that seizes you by the throat—alternately lyrical, abrupt, whimsical, sexy, informative, seductive and always full of surprises, most of them couched in “creolese”. The language works a hypnotic magic and you soon feel you’re in Guyana yourself.’ – Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke

‘Quick, cool, astonishingly assured, it awakens with its landscapes and characters a Conradian sense of wonder.’ – Pankaj Mishra, Outlook

‘Naipaul, if he had been a young man exploring an unknown world today, could have written it. But 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.’ – Nilanjana S. Roy, India Today

‘Among the many accomplishments of this exceptional book is Bhattacharya’s ability to portray sex with an unabashed, edgy abandon . . . It is certainly the best first novel by an Indian I have read in a long time.’ – Sunil Sethi, Outlook

‘Bhattacharya’s writing has incredible depth and artistry, a kind of achieved poise that sets it apart from anything else, even when he’s only talking about the experience of being violently drunk or describing house-fronts in Georgetown.’ – The Indian Express

‘As the lone narrator wanders through this wonderland, he builds a sense of adventure, surrealism, love, empathy and passion. The book is a sum of the adventure of being in a place where everything is turned upside down and one has to navigate by improvising’ – The Asian Age

‘One of the most fascinating books to have come out in recent times . . . A book that commands your attention and you are compelled to give it all it needs.’ – Business Standard

‘As I was drawn deeper into the book, those first, serendipitous associations with Naipaul and Kanhai seemed to become curiously apt: The Sly Company has the masterly spirit of place of the former and, in some elliptical way, the effortless, silken artistry of the latter.’ – The Hindu

‘One of the finest works of prose to come out of the subcontinent in the last decade . . . Each character seems to stand out distinctly, each revealing the layers of history that went into making the present. And in the end is a work that you wish would win prizes, go out and receive accolades, and get all the praise a writer of this calibre deserves.’ – The Kathmandu Post

‘Deeply interesting and innovative . . .using language in a way that is not merely idiomatic, but also subversive and provocative.’ – DNA

‘Excellent . . . his observations are nuanced, coated with irony, touched by rare insights, and recorded with a lyrical flourish.’ – The Telegraph

‘It’s an adventure tale all right. But it is more than that. It explores belongingness and displacement – of people, ideas, and self . . . Take this trip. You are in good company.’ – The Times of India

‘As much an exploration of a geography with a history of colonisation as a mental landscape of relationship and a hunt for home . . . A reading experience to be savoured.’ – Arunava Sinha, Hindustan Times

‘Hitherto Bhattacharya was writing on cricket; this is his first novel. And it is first rate. Watch out for this man.’ – Khushwant Singh, The Telegraph

‘Bhattacharya fashions a different kind of novel, while also—like Ghosh and Naipaul—returning the concept of a novel to its roots in a new combination of elements . . . Funny and sad, thoughtful and perceptive, The Sly Company of People Who Care is a novel to read slowly and savour.’ – Tabish Khair, Open

‘The book I enjoyed reading most in 2011 was Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care. Its language holds the reader in a laughing embrace and talks of the tyranny of forced migration which has spawned generations of ‘nowhere’ people in a way that we get under the skin of the people as well as landscape. The sense of the absurd allows the reader to befriend the characters without judging them. Both Guyana and the throwback to India seem real, not exotic. The novel’s understanding of human yearning and pitfalls is unique, as is its spirit of adventure. Above all it has a consummate end, which is no mean achievement as most novels seem to dissipate their energy towards the end.’ – Mridula Garg, Biblio



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