Amanda Smyth – Fortune

Amanda Smyth’s Fortune focuses on a topic of Caribbean history that escaped me completely and that the oil rush in Trinidad. During the 1850s oil was discovered in Trinidad, however during the 1920s companies from around the world began to move in and that is the setting of the book.

Sonny Chatterjee is a down on his luck cocoa farmer. His crops have died and his family is destitute. However, his farming land is literally a bed of oil, with it emerging when he moves the soil. This grabs the interest of a few companies and after much debate, begin drilling.

As a historical document Fortune is interesting. Disease, explosions, exploitation, the environmental destruction and tropical storms feature. Since the novel is based on true events it’s quite an eye opener to see the hardships and deceit these businessmen went through in order to satisfy their greed. If you thought the film There Will be Blood brutal, think again. The amount of pain these characters go through is immense.

There’s also a love story plot in Fortune. Usually if this type of plotline enters a story, I don’t like it as it can over complicate but here it’s done well and adds another dimension to the characters; that although making money is on there mind, love can factor in as well.

The cast of characters are distinguishable: The illiterate Sonny Chatterjee, the ambitious Eddie Wade, the savvy Tito Fernandez. All are well written and despite their hidden motives, one can’t help liking them. Due to the characters we do get a snapshot of the multicultural melting pot Trinidad was at that time, something I did not realise until I read the book.

Fortune is a tight, well paced, novel. I learnt some things in the process. I think novels should focus on the lesser known areas of history and Fortune hits that want nicely.

Many thanks to Peepal Tree Press for providing a requested copy of Fortune

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