> Skip to content
  • Published: 30 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241562994
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $37.00

The Fortune Men

Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Of The Year Award




A murder, a miscarriage of justice, and a man too innocent for his times . . .

Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is a smooth-talker with rakish charm and an eye for a good game. He is many things, but he is not a murderer.

So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. Since his Welsh wife Laura kicked him out for racking up debts he has wandered the streets more often, and there are witnesses who allegedly saw him enter the shop that night. But Mahmood has escaped worse scrapes, and he is innocent in this country where justice is served. Love lends him immunity too: the fierce love of Laura, who forgives his gambling in a heartbeat, and his children. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of returning home dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and cruelty - and that the truth may not be enough to save him.

  • Published: 30 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241562994
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $37.00

Praise for The Fortune Men

Mixing startling lyricism and sheer brutality, this is a significant, affecting book

Guardian, on Black Mamba Boy

A first novel of elegance and beauty... a stunning debut

The Times, on Black Mamba Boy

With the unadorned language of a wise, clear-eyed observer, Nadifa Mohamed has spun an unforgettable tale

Taiye Selasi, on The Orchard of Lost Souls

Just as Half of a Yellow Sun drew out the little documented dramas of the Biafran war, Mohamed describes an East Africa under Mussolini's rule . . . such an accomplished first novel

Independent, on Black Mamba Boy

A moving and captivating tale of survival and hope in a war-torn country, and confirms Mohamed's stature as one of Britain's best young novelists

Stylist on The Orchard of Lost Souls

A haunting and intimate portrait of the lives of women in war-torn Somalia

New York Journal of Books, on The Orchard of Lost Souls

Chilling and utterly compelling, The Fortune Men shines an essential light on a much-neglected period of our national life

Sathnam Sanghera, author of Empireland

A writer of great humanity and intelligence. Nadifa Mohamed deeply understands how lives are shaped both by the grand sweep of history and the intimate encounters of human beings

Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire

The Fortune Men describes how innocence is forced to justify itself before gross injustice. A novel of tremendous power, compassion and subtlety, it feels unsettlingly timely

Pankaj Mishra

The Fortune Men is that rare novel that breaks your heart and, in so doing, gives you life. Nadifa Mohamed is a revelation - she writes with the fierce compassionate lightning of a truth-teller, lays bare the ghastly colonial condition that afflicts so many of us, where truth cannot overcome injustice. If a novel can be an avenger then The Fortune Men is the one we've all been waiting for

Junot Diaz

The Fortune Men is a novel on fire, a restitution of justice in prose

FT

It's unbearably wrenching . . . Mohamed makes the outrage at the book's heart blazingly unignorable by inhabiting Mattan's point of view, a bold endeavour pulled off to powerful effect. Passages from the barbaric climax are still echoing in my head, even as I type

Daily Mail

The Fortune Men confirms Mohamed as a literary star of her generation. When Mohamed's prose - simple and full of soul - illuminated him, Mahmood emerges as a beacon of humour, hope and endurance

Observer

In her determined, nuanced and compassionate exposure of injustice, Mohamed gives the terrible story of Mattan's life and death meaning and dignity

Guardian

Based on real events, Mohamed's novel is panoramic in its scope and rich in period atmosphere, vividly tracing the desperate livers of the victim and the accused

Mail on Sunday

A moving work

The Week, Novel of the Week

Evocative and enlightening

New Statesman

Mohamed is . . . intent on expanding her world, listing its teeming varieties and presenting a wealth of character and language

TLS

Nadifa Mohamed's richly evocative novel paints a vivid picture of life in this notorious neighbourhood as she visits a forgotten miscarriage of justice

Vogue

[Mohamed] creates an intriguing snapshot of an era and a complex main character you can't help but root for

The Times

A searing and moving look at institutional racism and the helplessness you can feel in the face of prejudice

Independent

Heaving with life . . . The Fortune Men excavates the forgotten reaches of British colonial history . . . The purposeful detail is an implicit corrective to all the times when the lives of people like Mattan have not been considered at all

Telegraph

Grippingly-paced and full of complex, richly-drawn characters, the novel combines pointed social observation with a deeply empathetic sensibility. The Fortune Men demonstrates what historical fiction can achieve at its best

Maya Jasanoff, Chair of the Booker Prize 2021

The writing carries a depth of humanity that puts the reader right in the shoes of the characters - the clothes they wear, the streets they walk, the emotions they feel . . . [The Fortune Men] is filled with the hope of how things should be and the truth of how things are. All of it, the life of Mahmood Mattan, the system convicting him of this murder, and the community that allows it, all brought painfully into focus with Mohamed's unflinching and gifted prose

San Francisco Chronicle

A potent, pointed novel . . . Mohamed is a big talent, and she's only getting started

New York Times, Best Books of 2021

Mohamed balances colonial history and violence with the evocative interior lives of Mahmood and Violet Volacki, a fictionalized Volpert . . . brilliantly depict[ing] the complexities of community within the Black diaspora . . . [she] manages such tender detail even while zooming out on the British prison and court systems more broadly

New York Times

Nadifa Mohamed's The Fortune Men is an elegant portrayal of life in the racial, cultural hub of Cardiff's Tiger Bay in the early Fifties. Eschewing a simple morality play for complex vivid characters, it centres on the plight of Mahmood Mattan, who finds himself in the shadow of the hangman's noose for a murder he didn't commit

Gary Younge, New Statesman, Books of the Year

Smart and devastating, there's a reason it's one of our books of the year

Stylist, Unmissable Fiction Buys From 2021

Mohamed's novel, very much in the US genre of exposing racial injustice, is also an atmospheric account of Tiger Bay in 1952 and of the forgotten multiculturalism that allowed Mattan to marry a local girl, Laura, who for years campaigned to clear his name

Sameer Rahim, Daily Telegraph

[An] expert illumination of real-life racial injustice in the cultural melting pot of 1950s Cardiff

Justine Jordan, Guardian, Best Fiction of 2021

Related titles