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The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1 | [Bryce Courtenay]

The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1

Always leave a little salt on the bread. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Always leave a little salt on the bread...

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)

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (3516 )
5 star
 (1995)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
4.4 (2519 )
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 (1513)
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 (206)
2 star
 (89)
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 (68)
Story
4.6 (2514 )
5 star
 (1827)
4 star
 (475)
3 star
 (133)
2 star
 (39)
1 star
 (40)
Performance
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  •  
    David Orlando, FL, United States 02-25-13
    David Orlando, FL, United States 02-25-13 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    7
    3
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    "One of the best of 300+ books I have listened to"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    Great story. FANTASTIC reader. Really a true artist.


    Any additional comments?

    Just a very good story. Good and evil, sometimes mixed up in each character.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Constance Concord, CA, United States 02-25-13
    Constance Concord, CA, United States 02-25-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent"

    Best book ever! One of those stories you didn't want to end (and I guess it hasn't because there's two more parts). I'm hoping parts 2 and 3 are as excellent as this,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret 02-23-13
    Margaret 02-23-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    458
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Characters Came Fully Alive & Became Part Of Me"

    You need to know that I do very few reviews. I am no writer & despite the hundreds of books I read, I forget details quickly. Here goes.... My heart ached for these people & the characters part of me as I read all of the rich details. My reason for withholding from giving 5 stars is because my mind wandered toward the end. I felt like the last chapter was dragging, or perhaps the author didn't want the book to end. It could have been wrapped up without adding new situations at the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy F. Sierra Foothills, Northern CA 02-22-13
    Nancy F. Sierra Foothills, Northern CA 02-22-13 Member Since 2007

    Live on edge of National Forest with lake, birds & wild animals. No more perfect place to indulge life-long love of reading.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    36
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    88
    80
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    2
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    Story
    "Dickens + McMurtry = Outstanding Entertainment"

    From the very beginning I fell in love with the quirky characters. Set in early 19th century London it was easy to pick up on the Dickens-like portrayals. At the point when one of the street urchins (one of the smartest students in the Light Fingers Academy) was questioned outside a London courthouse by a reporter who identified himself as Charles Dickens (his only appearance in the book) I became intrigued with the connections. The urchin gave the reporter a made-up name of "Artful Dodger". It was a pretty quick step to realize from there that one of the main characters, Ikey Solomon, was a real life London thief. Dickens used Solomon as his model for Fagin in Oliver Twist -- where the Artful Dodger also appears.

    Yes, it's a long book. But I never once wanted it to speed up. The story is action-packed with fascinating characters and much intrigue. Since it's a triology, do not expect all story lines to be resolved. There is much more grist here for future mills!

    This is most definitely fiction but based on real history: places, characters and legal systems. It moves from London to the Australian penal colony where it picks up a very McMurtry-like tone (think Lonesome Dove). This book has given me the gift of a new favorite author and a new wonderful narrator. I bought it based on the recommendation of a reviewer I follow. What a tremendous discovery. And, thank you, fellow reviewer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Davis 02-22-13
    Barbara Davis 02-22-13 Member Since 2001

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    59
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    194
    37
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    8
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not historical fiction!!"
    What did you like best about The Potato Factory? What did you like least?

    I found the jewish criminals as well as the gentile's relationships to them to be of great interest. The author was criticized for this portrayal but I don't agree. Should we not expect there would be jews in all walks of life?

    I enjoyed the pickpockets custom made coat. I just bought a Scottevest which has many concealed pockets and I think of the pickpocket's coat every time I try to remember which pocket has what in it.

    I learned something about the legal system of the time in England--also the workings of the 'criminal class'.

    I found the prose to be tedious. The book could do with a good edit.


    What could Bryce Courtenay have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Less detail about the individuals--move the story along. A good editor is essential to a good book.


    Was The Potato Factory worth the listening time?

    No. I like long books but this one tried my patience. I don't think I will listen to the others in this series.


    Any additional comments?

    Not historical fiction.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    heART seneca sc 02-20-13
    heART seneca sc 02-20-13 Member Since 2012

    I'm a professional painter and love ennobling, enlightening literature

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
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    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "IT JUST DOESN'T GET BETTER"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    THE WRITING IS MASTERFUL


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    SINCE I CAN ONLY NAME ONE, IT WOULD BE MARY. SHE EMBODIES ALL THAT IS GOOD AND STRONG IN THE NAME OF PERSEVERANCE.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    THE ARM WRESTLING SCENE BUT IN ALL HONESTY, EVERY SCENE IS MIND BLOWING.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    A SAGA OF CONSEQUENCE


    Any additional comments?

    I READ THE POWER OF ONE 15 YEARS AGO AND THOUGHT IT MOST BRILLIANT. SO PLEASED TO REDISCOVER BRYCE CORTENAY. I HAVE LEARNED THAT HE HAS WRITTEN 21 BOOKS AND HOPE TO READ THEM ALL. THE POTATO FACTORY IS AT THE VERY TOP OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS. RIVETING. THE CHARACTERS BREATHE. THE STORY IS EXTRAORDINARY. COULD NOT LOVE IT MORE.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Palm Desert, CA, United States 02-20-13
    Martin Palm Desert, CA, United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    137
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    "An interesting story of Australian history"
    Would you listen to The Potato Factory again? Why?

    Not sure if I would listen to the story again but I could recommend it as a good book in your library. I certainly will buy the author's next book in this series.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Mary Abacus was my favorite character because she represents a strong willed survivor who was able to adapted to her environment. A true pioneer of Australian's history.She was a woman who paved the way for others.


    What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The story is interesting because it takes the characters and their stories from England to Australia. The author sets the stage for the next generations to carry on in the making of Australian's history. At first is was difficult to understand the narrator's Australian accent
    but that issue disappeared.


    If you could rename The Potato Factory, what would you call it?

    I would not rename the book. The Potato Factory fits the story.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was a fast listen because you don't want to put in down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Goodyear, AZ, United States 02-19-13
    Amazon Customer Goodyear, AZ, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Performance
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    "Excellent book and Humphrey Bower is incredible!"
    Would you listen to The Potato Factory again? Why?

    yes, very good


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Potato Factory?

    when Mary found her son in the woods


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favorite?

    Eickey


    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed this audible book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pedro Oliveira Jr. Sao Paulo, SP Brazil 02-15-13
    Pedro Oliveira Jr. Sao Paulo, SP Brazil 02-15-13 Member Since 2009

    Pedro Paulo

    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
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    80
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    "Great Australian Book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Potato Factory to be better than the print version?

    I never saw the print version, but the narration is fantastic.


    What other book might you compare The Potato Factory to and why?

    It was a very pleasant reading and I look forward to completing the series.


    What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His voice adds life to the characters.


    If you could rename The Potato Factory, what would you call it?

    Mary Abacus


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anika 02-14-13
    Anika 02-14-13 Member Since 2013
    ratings
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    1
    1
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    Story
    "Complex, yet beautifully easy listening!"
    If you could sum up The Potato Factory in three words, what would they be?

    addicting, real, gritty


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Potato Factory?

    Mary's journey to Van Demon's land by boat


    What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Accents for each of the characters. Humphrey's melodious voice made the story weave together in a lovely way.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both! It made me cringe at times, but that's what makes it real.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent listen! Highly recommended. what a great intro to Audible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 191-200 of 321 results PREVIOUS119202133NEXT
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  • Katie
    Ormskirk, Lancashire, United Kingdom
    3/5/09
    Overall
    "Fab!"

    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

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Grange-over-Sands, United Kingdom
    8/1/09
    Overall
    "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!!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • KIM
    Bognor Regis, United Kingdom
    3/31/12
    Overall
    "Great Tale!"

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jinty
    England
    12/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Always leave a little Salt on the Bread !!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    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 ....


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

    without a doubt " My Dear !" it is most definately.... Ikey Solomon..


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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 !"


    Any additional comments?

    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!!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kim
    Liestal, Switzerland
    3/28/12
    Overall
    "Absolutely brilliant"

    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?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • richard
    11/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dickins meets EJ thompson"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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 ....


    What other book might you compare The Potato Factory to, and why?

    Well obviously Oliver Twist.... much better and accurate personalisation of Ike rather that the politically satirically Fagin however


    Have you listened to any of Humphrey Bower’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Learning a lot about Australian History.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    In the depths of human depravity , humanity still wins through.
    Immensely enjoyable novel with superb narration painting a very powerful picture of Australian history...


    Any additional comments?

    Will definitely be listening to the next two books in the trilogy

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alicia
    10/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hilary
    Shepton Mallet, Somerset, United Kingdom
    10/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Stunning!"

    This is the first of a trilogy; I listened and had to buy the next two volumes. Well written, well plotted, well researched, and Humphrey Bower is rapidly becoming a serious contender for my number 1 narrator. Awesome.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Linda
    Birmingham
    9/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Victorian reality not Dickens soap opera"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    Just a brilliant story written in a compelling dialogue and narrated superbly.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the story developed drawing you further in with every page.


    What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The characters are brought to life and will now be forever as Humphrey Bower depicts them unforgettably emblazoned on my mind.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed out loud a number of times and wept to hear Mary's awful beating by the male clerks....so sad.


    Any additional comments?

    This book may not immediately appeal from the introductions but this is pure gold as a wonderful unforgettable read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anne
    9/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping tale"
    Would you listen to The Potato Factory again? Why?

    Yes, brilliant read (always a pleasure to listen to Humphrey Bower), brought Dickensian London to life and interesting about the prison settlements in Australia.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Funny as well as sad


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

    Isaac Solomon - a true Fagin


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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