If there were an audiobook award for 'best of the year', Bryce Courtney's 'The Potato Factory' would get my vote, hands down. It has everything -- a compelling story, unforgetable characters, a plot with historical authenticity, and a narrator that can't be beat.
Scholars debate how historically accurate 'The Potato Factory' really is -- I personally knew very little about the founding of Australia, from its penal colony days, but in at least one sense, it doesn't matter. The story succeeds brilliantly, even if it were pure fiction. There is likewise debate about whether the book is anti-semitic -- as a Jew, I can't see any tinge of anti-Jewish feeling. Quite the contrary, in many instances. It's hardly a surprise that there were (and are) Jews of less than sterling character. Ikey Solomon, as portrayed by Courtney, is both lovable and dispicable, fully human and utterly fascinating. A man of his time, in a society that was very different from that which we live in today.
Special congratulations should go to Humphrey Bower, the narrator. Through a truly Dickensian cast of characters (including a cameo from the Boz himself!) from street urchins, to upper class Brits, through every element of British and then exiled-society in Van Damiens Land, men and women, adults and children, Bower does a masterful job of portrayal. Each voice is unique, each rings true. There oughta be Academy Awards for acting jobs like this one!
'The Potato Factory' is actually the first book of a trilogy that Courtney calls his gift to Australia. Having just finished listening to this first installment, I'm now on the hunt for the second and third books -- Audible would be doing an amazing service to its listeners if they also provided the next two. Having experienced the first, I can't imagine not wanting to hear the rest of the story as told by Courtney.
Don't miss this classic tale. "The Potato Factory" has it all -- audiobooks just don't get any better than this.
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
A woven tapestry tale with the bawdy, tender, joyous and horrific. He opens the slums of London and the prisioner deportations to Tasmania to our view. You learn history in passing but more important meet characters so complex, that I felt I knew them... almost as friends who shared what they had learned from life. It is a hard book to put down, but does include a great deal of profanity, whores, multiple graphic sexual events and violence. With all the good in it, I still strongly wouldn't recommend for a teen reader or tender spirited soul.
This was my very first Bryce Courtaney, had never even heard of him ... I did a search for historical fiction over 20 hours long and this was one that came up, it sounded interesting so I figured, why not .... WOW, I was hooked right away, with both the fantastic story and the awesome narrator Humphery Bower. I think it took me 2 days to finish it cause I could not put it down. As soon as it ended I downloaded the other 2 books in the trilogy, Tommo & Hawk and Solomon's song. Of course this is a fictional story but knowing that some characters are based on real people made it all the more interesting. I have gone on to download many more of Bryce Courtaney's and have never been the least bit disappointed.
Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.
My biggest complaint about Bryce Courtney is...his titling! The two books I've listened to, "Brother Fish" and "The Potato Factory" are truly marvelous stories-- and I do call them stories vs. novels purposefully. Yet the titles don't entice, and these books richly deserve...to be enticing. Courtney is just an awesome storyteller, it's okay that there's predictability, a bit of cliche, a bit of platitude. Because that's just... a bit. Much more than those small bits and pieces, there is a great Courtney universe to enjoy. This particular book -- a book about the notorious "Prince of Fences," a true-life scoundrel of the gravest sort--his wife and his one-time mistress...all shipped to Australia... is incredibly rich in character development. As in "Brother Fish" Courtney has treated his female characters with the same generosity that he has his males, and once again he treats of villains and villainy in a way that doesn't demonize and doesn't border on caricature.
I think, when I'velistened to these books that more than anything I am impressed that they're gripping, fun, marvelous stories that are written by a man of compassion-- you can feel this author's huge, gorgeous heart beating through the pages. The other thing that's interesting-- both books I've read emphasize literacy-- reading saves the characters again and again, and in fact the book jacket informs us that the author is a literacy champion. Beyond his advocacy, the works themselves are the best champions, he has written books that can truly instill the love of reading...and the desire to read more within its readers. Strong recommendation!
After listening to "The Power of one" and "Tandia" which where brilliant and signing up with audible. This was the first place I headed was to Bryce Courtenay section. I listened to "The Potato Factory. And to take one of Mr. Courtenays comments I have learnt more out of story books than history books. Being Australian and learning about the penial colonies allowed me to have a picture in my mind whilst this wonderful book was being beautifully read by Humphrey Bower. Really encapsulated it all for me and bringing me to a new level of understanding. I like others would like to know what the other 2 parts are to Mr. Courtenays gift, that he has so beautifully given Australia. The most throughtful and gracious gift. That we as a Country are the most fortunate to be the recipients of. And now the decision of what to listen to of Mr. Courtenay's next
Author of romance and women's fiction, violinist and horse trainer.
I've not read the print version.
Excellent reader. He portrays the various characters well.
I read quite a bit of historical fiction, but this is such a violent story, I'm not sure I'm actually glad to have read it. Not that it isn't good. It's well done. But some of the descriptions I wish I could expunge from my memory. I could have lived the rest of my life without the particularly graphic and violent visuals this author is so proficient at writing.
I'm not naive and I am pretty tough minded, but beware. The pictures this author paints are not easily forgotten.
I did feel the ending gave enough hope to make me want to read more of this series, but it's going to be a while.
It is rare to understand the history of a specific region; there is simply too much information about the plight of all people, the landscape, the political times, to make sense of the period. The Potato Factory is an anomaly. This first book of Bryce Courtenay’s trilogy brings this time to life. Not only are you involved in the lives of crooks and scoundrels, whores and bawdy houses, but the treatment these poor wretches receive is disgusting--and most horrid is the plight of the children. The saga of the characters from England to Australia persists, as a reader you begin to admire and respect them and their tenacity. I could not stop listening…and being a cheap Audible user, I waited two weeks until I could download the second book. It was every bit as good as the first book. What a treasure. The third book in the Potato Factory is not on Audible. By the time it is I’m sure I’ll have listened to the first two books again, just to hear the story—and contrary to other reviewer I thoroughly enjoyed Humphrey Bower the narrator.
I love to listen to well-written, well-researched books. Time is too valuable to waste on anything less, not to mention our credits and $$$!
Bryce Courtenay and Humphrey Bower are sheer genius together. I can't imagine one without the other. Although the writing is truly extraordinary, Mr. Bower's narration makes The Potato Factory come to life for over 23 much-anticipated hours. Just the Dickensian settings and names of the characters alone are worth the read but there's SO much more. All of the listener's senses are piqued as the characters and story richly unfold. I'd actually find myself tightly closing my eyes to keep out the especially nasty parts only to realize that it's the magic of the narrator that has made them come so alive. PLEASE get this book. Enjoy each and every word. I've listened to dozens of Audible books (and read hundreds more) and this is without a doubt, the best of the best.
This first book of a trilogy, was as good or better than any book/books I have listned to out of the more than 120 books I have downloaded through Audible. Out of all the reviews not one listed all three books and in the order they were written. All are avialible through Aubible. This trilogy of novels contains "The Potato Factory", "Tommo & Hawk" and "Solomon's Song". In that order. Another book by the same author "Brother Fish" was outstanding. Maybe a tad better (if that is possible) than the aforementioned Trilogy.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Once again I have chosen a book that is very well written and perfectly read, but populated with such unappealing characters that I felt like I needed to take a shower after each listening session. The writing is compared to Dickens in several reviews, appropriately so since the main villian (supposed hero) is the real life inspiration for Fagan. In his preface the author warns us that his characters are "odious", but assures us that we will grow to love them. I did not. Did such violence and depravity really exist in that day and time? I'm sure it did. But that doesn't mean I want to be immersed in the muck. Even Dickens gave us some positive characters.
So I will add my caution to previous unhappy reviewers: If you do not enjoy very explicitly graphic sexual (and I don't mean romantic) and violent scenes, and if making heroes of villians is not your cup of tea, then pass on this one. The only reason I am allowing a 3 star rating is in acknowledgement of the author's obvious writing skills, but it does not mean that I enjoyed his "odious" characters. I am just grateful that I did not purchase the next two volumes in the series, because I won't be reading them.