The Fortune Men (Hardback)
  • The Fortune Men (Hardback)

The Fortune Men (Hardback)

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Hardback 384 Pages
Published: 27/05/2021
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Waterstones Says

A sobering examination of prejudice, justice and the dispensability of truth, The Fortune Men tells the story of Mahmood, who finds himself wrongfully charged for murder in 1950s Cardiff.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2021

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, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.

So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served.

It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman's noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241466940
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 498 g
Dimensions: 222 x 144 x 35 mm


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

[An] expert illumination of real-life racial injustice in the cultural melting pot of 1950s Cardiff - Justine Jordan, Guardian, Best Fiction of 2021

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

A potent, pointed novel . . . Mohamed is a big talent, and she's only getting started - New York Times, Best Books of 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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 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

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

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

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

Evocative and enlightening - New Statesman

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

A moving work - The Week, Novel of the Week

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

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

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 first novel of elegance and beauty... a stunning debut - The Times, on Black Mamba Boy

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

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

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

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“What an amazing historical fiction novel”

What an amazing historical fiction novel, not at all what I was expecting.

The book is set in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, in 1952. Mahmood is a Somali married to Laura, a local woman. 1950’s Cardiff is a bustle of... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 17

“An important story”

The Fortune Men is a story of shame, of injustice and is a story that leaves a dark stain on the British criminal justice system. Based on the true story of Mahmood Mattan, a Somali man living in Cardiff's Tiger... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 14


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... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 13

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