Brilliant, but too cruel: The book is a wonderful piece of literature worthy of the sweep and wildness of Oz and the griminess of Dickens' London. The narration of the audiobook is the best I've heard. The genius of Humphrey Bower's voice even exceeds Bryce Courtenay's as a writer. Bower does innumerable voices outstandingly well, from little snot-nosed urchins to aging whores and pompous magistrates.
Courtney has created a wonderful tale from the skeleton of history known about the 19th Century rascal Ikey Soloman (deemed to be Charles Dickens inspiration for Fagin in "Oliver Twist"). The fictional character of Mary Abacus is just as interesting, if not quite as endearing. And the secondary characters are wonderful in their scruffiness, pomposity, and winsomeness.
The book has one minor, and one major flaw, in my view. The minor is that conclusory statements about Ikey and Mary are made several times, which turn out not to be true. The one most common is that "Ikey is a broken man" or "has lost his will". But then he lives on to commit another scam or mentor another little scamp. But again, it's a minor quibble. More troubling is Courtenay's horrifying tortures of Mary. He goes much further than is necessary to win our sympathy and show Mary to be indomitable The brutality inflicted upon her in at least three instances is at The Walking Dead level, over the top and gratuitous. Bear the pain, the book is otherwise a delightful experience.
Very good and solid story that will keep you hook till the end. And most of all OUTSTANDING performance from Humphrey Bower. He gives so much lives to the different characters
I am going for book #2!!
Engaging, well narrated.
The narration of this audiobook is outstanding. Mr Bower's portrayal of the characters, especially Ikey Soloman, made the story feel real.
I was fascinated by this tale of clever and ingenious people who, by default of their birth into the lower classes of English society, are destined to make their living by devious and criminal means. You can't help but admire their industriousness and ability to make the system work for them, in spite of the danger of being caught at their game.
This is in my top handful of most enjoyed audio books.
The beginning of this book was so dark and violent that I nearly gave up on it, but at the urging of other reviewers I kept going and am glad I did. The history of the exportation of persons judged to be criminals in London and banished to settle Australia came to life as Courtenay wove his tale, and the book culminates as a wonderful story of determination and survival.
During the tale, I was a little put off by what I thought was unnecessary antisemitism, but in his preface Courtenay had addressed that as factual so I looked upon it as a fact of life as it was at the time.
The narrator does an admirable job of using accents and a heavy brogue but speaks too quickly at times. At other times, the audio sounds as though it was artificially engineered to speed the narration, which also challenged comprehension. Nevertheless, the narration added greatly to the effectiveness of the story, and overall the book was a great listen.
I'm an avid listener. Audio books are a mini-vacation for me. They fill my "need to read" when I don't have time - which is most of the time. Great element of multi-tasking!
The history of Australia is fascinating anyway, but this book really portrays a unique view of the early English settlers going to the continent. Everyone has an angle and everyone has instinctive qualities that allow them to succeed, despite the terrible conditions under which many of them arrived. I can't wait to hear the 2nd installment of this trilogy. The narrator creates nuanced individuals of each of the MANY characters. Numerous accents, pitches and vocal mannerisms are skillfully played.
Skillful story telling and expertly crafted character development make for a terrific read. This first of the trilogy sets up the next two in the series which were equally wonderful. Best written book I've read in quite some time.
Ike Solomon is a despicable thief, yet becomes endearing
He does so well with all of the voices to make them believably different people.
This may be a bit too gruesome for the movies - it turns your stomach with the brutality of the times, I don't think I would want to see all that.
Can't wait for book 2!
I am a child of the 50's, love kids, animals, plants. I adopted a Sulphur mustang mare (desendant of the warhorses of the Conquistadors).
I enjoyed the author's style of writing, character development, setting, and historical background. The historical background really helped give context to the characters.
The historical background of the story, of both Australia and London.
He has an understandable accent, and does a good job with different character voices, and emotions.
I was rather horrified at the treatment of children, and animals but that is part of history.
I'm starting Tommo and Hawk next.
Bryce Courtenay's writing. His character development and his ability to tell a story of depth and interest. I read his first novel, The Power of One, many years ago when it was first published. It stands today as one of the 10 best novels I have ever read. P.S. The movie by the same name was... well, crap. Many years have passed since I read the Power of One until I recently purchased this Audible. I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on listening to the entire trilogy of the Soloman Family.
When I finally learned just what the "Potato Factory" was.
I have not, but must say he did a superb job of narrating the voices and the accents. He can even carry a good tune when it came to singing some of the songs featured in the book.
A Tribute to Founding of Australia
I recommend this book, this author, and this narrator most highly.
Reading allows me to travel through time; to visit the world's unique and stunning places. To become somebody I am not... It is glorious.
This is the perfect book to choose when looking for your next audio book. The narration is rich and complex and full of nuance. Mr. Bower deftly handles multiple characters and accents. Through his voice we come to know the less than perfect characters Mr. Courtenay illustrates. And we forgive them for those faults and flaws because we fall in love with them.
I cannot pick a favorite scene, but most of them involve Mary Abacus. Her tenaciousness is something that I hope to teach my daughter. Her fierce and ferocious love of her boys is how I hope others see me and my love of my children. Her intelligence makes me respect her. I find her fascinating and I overlook all of her misdeeds because I like her so much. This is something Mr Courtenay does extremely well. His treatment of Ikey Solomon is equally nimble. While he is often a despicable human being the listener will find him complicated, a bit repulsive and still appealing. In fact, by the book's end I had forgiven Ikey for all his crimes.
I cannot speak to the accuracy of the history in this book. My opinion is that most historical fiction is aptly named. I often learn from it, but do not rely upon the novels for the learning. Instead I allow them to lead me in my learning and I follow the novel to the primary source materials. Whether the history is accurate here may not matter -- the story is too good to pass. Read it for the stories. Read it because it is enjoyable. Then if you want to learn more of Australia's history, research it.