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Amanda Smyth's Fortune uncovers secrets in oil, cocoa era in Trinidad

Written by Debbie Jacob for Newsday on Sunday, April 4, 2021

Snippets of history weave their way through Fortune, touching on civil unrest, a riot over proposed water meters and the developing oil business. The research is astounding, but even more impressive is how it enhances the story – never weighing it down with heavy details.

Oil is a fitting metaphor for the constant tension that bubbles to the surface.


She evokes setting with rich imagery, packing each sentence with sensory descriptions. As with Ernest Hemingway, no word is ever wasted, yet I can’t think of another writer who packs so much imagery into each sentence.

While the focus of Fortune is oil, readers will realise this is also a novel about migration, relationships, love, greed, deception and taking risks. It will require re-reading for the sheer beauty of the language and the need to ponder symbolic anecdotes that readers might overlook on that first read because it is easy to be swept up in the plot.


Some of the secrets in Fortune are so subtle you won’t realise they serve as important narrative threads until the end of the novel, when, if you’re like me, you will gasp at the realisation that this book might have been about something totally different from what you thought in the beginning. Smyth pulls off allegory, perhaps the deepest and most difficult level of creativity to penetrate, on the level of Rohinton Mistry.

When Fortune hits the bookshops in June, Smyth and her publisher, Peepal Tree Press, are bound to feel they struck oil. I’m betting it will be a gusher.

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