About the Book
1920s Trinidad. Eddie Wade’s truck breaks down and he’s offered a ride by businessman, Tito Fernandez. So begins Fortune, a novel based on a real-life event about love, money, greed and ambition.
Eddie has spent the last years in the oilfields of the US and now he has returned home and is looking to sink his own well and make his fortune. He knows how dangerous it can be, but he feels lucky and Trinidad is rich in oil. Over the last months, like other oilmen, he has been wooing Sonny Chatterjee, a difficult man whose failing cocoa estate, Kushi, in South Trinidad, is so full of oil you can put a stick in the ground and see it bubble up. The morning before Eddie meets Tito, Sonny has finally given him the go-ahead to see what he can do. Unlike the big corporations drilling nearby, in his gut, Sonny trusts Eddie. Now all he needs is someone foolhardy enough to invest.
The fortuitous meeting between Eddie and Tito, leads to a business deal and a friendship that will make and break them both. Tito invests in Eddie’s confidence and although they are hindered by mosquitoes, heat, terrific rains, and superstitious fears, they find their fortune shooting out of the ground in thousands of barrels of oil, not once but three times. But their partnership also brings Eddie into contact with Ada, Tito’s beautiful wife, and as much as they try, they cannot avoid the attraction they feel for each other. With everything in the balance and everything to lose Tito and Eddie decide to go for one more well before Sonny sells the estate. How can this end well?
Format: Paperback (266 pages) Publisher: Peepal Tree
Publication date: 15th July 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
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Fortune is one of the four books on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022.
Fortune, in the many senses of the word, is a recurring theme of the book. The most obvious is the chance meeting between Eddie and Tito that opens the book. It brings about a partnership that offers the possibility for both of them to make a fortune through exploiting the oil reserves to be found beneath the soil of Trinidad. For Tito, it offers the opportunity to address his precarious financial situation, one which he has kept hidden from his wife, Ada, and wider society who see only a cigar-smoking, luxury loving man of the world. For Eddie, an instinctive risk-taker, it appeals to his ambitious nature. ‘In Trinidad you can be the first, a pioneer.’
The cocoa trees on Sonny Chatterjee’s estate are dying and though he is reluctant to allow drilling for oil on his land – he has repeatedly resisted offers from a large oil corporation – he wonders if perhaps this is the opportunity he has been waiting for. ‘What if, through meeting Eddie, his luck had changed?… What if he could show her [his wife, Sita] is was her good fortune to be married to him?’
Tito is keen to include Eddie in his social circle which eventually leads to Eddie being introduced to Tito’s family. You sense the immediate attraction between Ada, disillusioned with her relationship with Tito and her life in general, and Eddie, starstruck by the beautiful, bewitching Ada. For Eddie, Ada is ‘a woman who could make people stop what they are doing to look at her’. Eddie, with his energy and film star looks, is like no-one Ada’s ever met before. ‘It seemed to Ada he could have fallen out of the sky.’
However, there’s also a sense of foreboding as their relationship seems reckless on both their parts: Ada, because it threatens her marriage, and Eddie, because it threatens his lucrative business partnership with Tito. I felt there was a real The Great Gatsby vibe to the triangular relationship. Drawn together by a seemingly irresistible force, the risk of discovery is a game of chance that Ada in particular seems willing to play. The author injects a real sense of eroticism into the descriptions of their sexual encounters. ‘He searched her body like a thief, looking for something.’
Of course, drilling for oil is a risky venture – a game of chance – and not without its dangers as is demonstrated when a small act, provoked by an act of betrayal, has unintended consequences. ‘The little things you do sometimes change your destiny.’
Based on real events, Fortune is a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of Trinidad’s history that was completely new to me. It’s a skilfully crafted story that explores how strong emotions – passion, despair, ambition – can make people risk everything.
In three words: Eloquent, compelling, immersive
About the Author
Amanda Smyth is Irish-Trinidadian. Born in Ireland, she is the author of Black Rock (2009) and A Kind of Eden (2013). Black Rock won the Prix du Premier Roman prize, was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize and selected as an Oprah Winfrey Summer Read. Amanda teaches creative writing at Arvon, Skyros in Greece, and at Coventry University. She lives in Leamington Spa with her husband and daughter. (Photo/bio: Publisher author page)
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