Review: No Country by Kalyan Ray

If the early cha­pters are like riding a whirlwind, what follows is like being bec­almed mid sea, says Sathya Saran in the Outlook

No CountryKalyan Ray speaks in many tongues. The book begins like a film, with a crime scene, viewed narrow-eyed by the investigating officer. With readers conditioned by American crime series, it makes the opening a sure way to grab attention. Then, without warning, the reader is dropped into Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland. In the book-loving, quiet Brenden and his hot-headed friend Padraig, we meet the two boys whose lives will continue through the lives of others, over the next 500 pages. We also encounter what will be a constant—the beauty of Ray’s descriptive prose.

Vivid descriptions of places, scenes, people force us to read at a leisurely pace and take in the ever-changing landscape as the story shuttles between continents and generations, mapping their internal and external geography. It is writing of a style that beguiles and teases with its imagery. Ray starts the Brenden story in language that is coloured with Irish phr­ases. It is strangely appealing once the unease with the usage wears off. When Brenden says, “My eyes averted in finicky disgust as I saw her phelgm descending from one nostril…” the image shared is as real as the disgust it evokes. Slowly, the reader is being unfailingly drawn.