Ikey Solomon's favorite saying is also his way of doing business, and in the business of thieving he's very successful indeed. Ikey's partner in crime is his mistress, the forthright Mary Abacus, until misfortune befalls them. They are parted and each must make the harsh journey from thriving nineteenth century London to the convict settlement of Van Diemen's Land.
In the backstreets and dives of Hobart Town, Mary learns the art of brewing and builds The Potato Factory, where she plans a new future. But her ambitions are threatened by Ikey's wife, Hannah, her old enemy. The two women raise their separate families, one legitimate and the other bastard. As each woman sets out to destroy the other, the families are brought to the edge of disaster.
©1995 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2000 Bolinda Publishing Pyt Ltd by arrangement with Penguin Group (Australia)
"In the tradition of Charles Dickens, Courtenay creates a unique cast of characters from the outset of this epic novel....Humphrey Bower's performance is a marvel...making this one of those rare books with a sweep of characters the readers come to care about deeply." (AudioFile)
Selfish people survive.
It was a long, long time getting to the Potato Factory. Ikie's character developed along the way, but it took too much description to get there.
Humphrey Bower is a great reader. The story takes awhile but worth it. Really worth it. I "felt" what London was like. Then I felt the reality of what it meant to be a Criminal worthy of transportation. Can't wait for book 2.
The learned the humanity of people I initially thought of as horrible and worthless.
Mary's victory in getting the 'treasure'.
Bloody Mary - she's got chutzpah!
I can pictures the characters in my head. If I had money and could find the talent, I would turn this into a HBO Series.
Fabulous book, very graphic. Hard to put down. Excellent Reader. After reading this book I couldn't wait to read the second in the Trilogy.
Not having read the printed page, I can't say definitively. But the narrator was phenomenal!!
Mary Abacus receiving her boys.
His ability to seamlessly go between characters and his use of intonation for each character was great!
Wonderful story and terrific telling of it. Could not wait for my monthly credit to come and had to pay for the second book :)
So often the narrator can make or break a story. Humphrey Bower definitely makes this book come to life! One of the best narrators that I’ve heard. The story itself is well written and very interesting from a historical point of few. While I was entertained throughout, it felt like Bryce Courtenay took the easy way out at the end and just ended the story abruptly. That’s the main reason for the four stars instead of five. Overall an enjoyable listen.
You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~Paul Sweeney
Many reviewers have compared this book to Dickens. I wasn't looking for Dickens. I was looking for a very compelling story, which this had potential to be. Unfortunately, the book headed south for me after the first half.
There are many authors who get very descriptive in the details. One of my favorites is Diana Gabaldon. She really puts you in the moment. I some how find myself imagining the sprawling meadow sprinkled with a very detailed account of some yellow flower. It adds to the experience of the book. And in this novel, buried under far too many descriptions about how each character takes their tea (and pretty much everything else), there is a really good story. I just didn't want to work that hard to find it.
I was not bothered by topics of race, religion, sex or overall very disturbing, graphic violence, but it is worth noting for those with a stronger moral reading compass than I. These things for me invoked emotion that made me vested in the characters outcome, and eventually made it possible for me to get to the end of the book.
The book did start out great. The story does pull you in rather quickly, but I can't help the feeling that the last 3 hours or so, was just fluff combined with a meandering need to complete the book. I wish the book had ended as strongly as it started.
A couple of audio specific things to consider: 1. The narrator does speak a little quicker than I was accustomed to, but I was able to adjust to the faster cadence after a few minutes. 2. The prologue goes on for a while and comes close to spoiling some of the suspense of the story. I recommend skipping it and if you haven't gotten tired of tea descriptions by the end, go back and have a listen. 3. They split the sections in really inconvenient places. It's like someone took a calculator and said, "Yep, that's a third... ." 4. It's harder to skim with audio, and this is definitely a book I would have wanted to skim over some details. 5. On the plus side, there was a bit of singing. Who doesn't like singing? 6. Was it me? Or did Ikey sometimes sound like Jack Sparrow?
This was my first time listening to a Humphrey Bower narration, and I could not be more impressed! He read this amazing tale with so much emotion and brought each character to life. Every character had their own voice, quirks, and speaking tempo. Humphrey Bower is the gold standard for narrations!
The story itself is simply excellent. Although it is quite long, it never feels to drag on - Courtenay develops each of the characters with so much depth, that you cannot help but cheer for the Despicable Isaac Solomon. Solomon and Mary Abacus make a wonderful team without falling into the typical plot lines of forcing a love story. While love is there, Courtenay stays true to the story and the desires and ambitions of his main characters. The transformation of Isaac Solomon throughout the book is fantastic - and even as he tries to move away from a life of crime and slowly becomes more human, he always remains the same, horrible person at his core. The only character I would have loved to see more of was the amazing Sperm Whale Sally.
The criticisms that the story was vulgar or racist are simply unfounded. There is certainly language, and some pretty graphic sexual scenes, they are never over the top or out of context. Everything is well written and intricately planned to develop the characters and progress the story line.
I cannot wait to start book two, as the development of Hawk's character towards the end of this book left me yearning for much more!
This book tells of the life of two main characters, their struggles, character growth, strength and endurance through great hardship. Survival in a tough brutal life and the opportunity to start fresh in a new land. It is very well written and the narration is superb. A very entertaining journey. I have purchased the next book and will continue the story in book 2
Really well read and a gripping story. I was not sure what to expect from the information on the website but I was not at all let down. I enjoyed the narration and have listened to this story several times now. It is great every time. It makes you feel as though you are actually in 19th century London.The next stories in the trilogy Tommo and Hawk and then Solomon's Song are well worth a listen also
"Amazing, but a bit over the top and over long."
How to give this book less than 5 stars.... I wanted to give it 1 star after the first third, but it improved about half way through to be a very enjoyable listen. Unlike his first book, The Power of One, which is one of my favourites, and also read by H. Bower, this story can't quite cope with the vast scale Courtney is trying to convey. There are about 10 books worth in the first third alone, and the characterisation suffers for it. Courtney has very strong views about people, their motives and how much they can suffer or cause others to suffer, to which he gives full reign in this book. Personally, I found him a bit too hectoring at first and I got a bit bogged down in all the terrible violence, squalor, and general depravity. If it wasn't for the wonderful reading I would have given up after hour 9. Other people listening may not mind, but I found it both very nasty and a bit dull.... however, things definately improved. By the time the characters got on the way to Oz, his story settled down to become gripping and the characters were able to grow and become likable in their own right, rather than just being vehicles for displaying the writer's considerable research.
So, worth getting over the first third, but be prepared for lots of violence, depravity and human waste!!
"Always leave a little Salt on the Bread !!!"
The wonderful enchanting characters,the locations that the story took me to, the never ending thrill of what is going to happen next to Mary, Ikey,and little Sparra - Fart !! Sigh ....
this is hard to say ,as I loved every bit of this book however on reflection perhaps it was the historical facts that Bryce weaved into his storytelling, these were an eye opener for me.
without a doubt " My Dear !" it is most definately.... Ikey Solomon..
Oh yes there were many, I didnt like what happened to Mary's Hands, the death of Sperm Whale Sally made me weep. one that I wont forget is the flogging of " Billy Gone Queer !"
Humphrey Bower has taken Bryce Courteney words and made them Sing .. He is so ,so ,good to listen to. i was totally captivated with his wonderful voice.. I recommend this book whole heartedly. I have started on book two and the Story goes on great!!
I read the book years ago and knew that I would read it again one day and so getting it on audio was great idea!
I loved it as much second time round and Humphrey Bower does a brilliant job with all the characters voices.
How you come to love the main character Ikey Solomen is amazing as he is such a dirty rotten low life scoundrel! But loveable he is!
I will get the sequel also and hopeful enjoy that as much!
You have to read all three (Tommo and Hawk & Solomon's Song). Fantastic story, fact and fiction beautifully brought together and the narrator Humphrey Bower gave a powerful and convincing performance. These books cannot be ignored either audio or hardcopy, they make you laugh, cry and may be enhance your knowledge of English history. Bryce's research is perfection itself, I looked up some of the references and there's no doubt of the immense amount of work that has taken place to produce these outstanding stories. If you haven't bought them yet.... what are you waiting for?
Very good story, can not wait for the next in the series. Well read by the narrator. I would recommend.
"Mischievously capturing, my dear"
Wonderful, funny, adoring and extremely well narrated.
Some of the best character descriptions ever. Can warmly recommend this one! Gr
"An amazing story"
So well written. Every character comes to life. An elaborate tale told in such a simple way. I couldn't put this book down.
"Dickins meets EJ thompson"
Already recommended this book/audible book several times , this is a powerful well researched work , that demonstrates truth is stranger than fiction. I can only describe it as having the best aspects of Dickens and EJ Thompson . Dickens descriptive narrative and E J Thompson's superb emotional intelligence ....
Well obviously Oliver Twist.... much better and accurate personalisation of Ike rather that the politically satirically Fagin however
Learning a lot about Australian History.
In the depths of human depravity , humanity still wins through.
Immensely enjoyable novel with superb narration painting a very powerful picture of Australian history...
Will definitely be listening to the next two books in the trilogy
"A good listen but possibly not a good read."
It rollicks along, but I found the characters not likeable enough - certainly initially. Courtenay depicts the underbelly of 18th century London with no saving graces from seediness, greed, manipulation and brutality and as a reader, you feel you need a palate with more colour on it. The savagery against Mary Abacus throughout makes you wonder if there's anything about women that Bryce Courtenay actually likes. He gets compared to Dickens, but Dickens's characters are far deeper and much more complex. Mary Abacus is no Esther Summerson.
Having said that, I have bought the next in the trilogy and, perhaps like Mary Abacus, I hope for better things.
Humphrey Bower is excellent. I am becoming quite a fan.
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