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)
I'm biased - The Power of One is probably my favorite novel of all time. Inexplicably, it's taken me a couple decades to seek out other Courtenay novels. But now that I have done so, I couldn't be more grateful. The Potato Factory is another amazing novel. It's not for the faint of heart, just as some (all?) of his other works aren't. But it's a great story with great characters, and it's well worth a listen. And I can't imagine a better narrator for these stories than Humphrey Bower. Mr. Bower really brings the characters to life. I can't wait to listen to the follow-up.
This is an absolutely wonderful find.
The Potato Factory is an absolutely fascinating novel mostly set in nineteenth-century London. It's a broad, sweeping epic tale of a few people in the seedy and sordid underbelly of society and the serpentine interactions of their lives.
Ultimately everyone ends up in Australia as a result of being deported on the convict ships, but that doesn't happen until the last third of the book.
The main characters are Ikey Solomon, a ruffian merchant, and Mary Abacus, an abused but resourceful woman who goes from being a servant to a prostitute/madam, then convict and small business owner. Ikey is largely despicable as a character, but he has some redeeming qualities. Mary is much more sympathetic. Ikey's wife and children are nasty and loathsome. There's a whole cast of secondary characters, including the band of young thievesand pickpockets Ikey has trained over the years.
The story is indeed Dickensian, but in the best possible way. Humphrey Bower's narration is absolutely first-class and he manages to convey accents of the London slum dwellers as well as Australian accents and even a couple of American accents. He's a vocal chameleon, and his narration is part of what makes this such a fabulous story.
The level of detail and historical description is absolutely stunning. Bryce Courtenay beings to life another age. The book is filled with interesting facts and snippets of information about things such as counterfeiting and the vaguely alarming justice ksystem which prevailed at the time.
I didn't want this book to end, and I am going out to get the next two in the series, whether I have any credits or not. If you like sweeping sagas with wonderful character descriptions and masterful plot twists, buy this book. It won't disappoint. If I could give this book more than five stars in each category, I would.
Great fanatastic entertaining.
Ikey. A horrible character that you can't help falling in love with.
Ikey's escape from the law.
When Ikey helped 'Billy gone queer' by giving him a new name.
Humphrey Bower's naration bought it to life for me.
I would recommend this audiobook to a friend. The story is historically based which is interesting. The reader is terrific. I cannot put the MP3 down!
Excellent and surprising book! I didn't think I would enjoy this book, however I loved it, and grabbed me right from the first chapter.
Enlightening, tragic, historic
Mr Bowers performance is perfect for this series. All of the trilogy comes alive with his narration
I wish the people in power would read these books. It seems to me, we are doomed to repeat the past over and over again. Will we never learn?
Good writing is more important for an audiobook experience than for conventional reading. It is harder to skim over the annoying parts, or to skip ahead if you really just want to see what happens. Here, the author chose an interesting historical setting, and had some good ideas for characters and story. But the writing is below average, and I recommend looking elsewhere.
Here are some specific criticisms:
- Phony sounding dialogue;
- Over the top, eye-roll inducing, descriptions;
- Inconsistent narrator point-of-view; sometimes in the characters' underpants (literally), sometimes a lofty historical perspective, sometimes getting sidetracked in an irrelevant crime caper, and once suggesting a recipe for the reader to try at home;
- Blatantly contrived plot devices; typical examples: (a) having characters raped and tortured for no particular reason, other than to generate sympathy; or (b) supposedly smart criminals scheme and suffer extensively trying to get a three digit safe code . . . but they don't realize that it would only take a few hours to try all 1000 combinations? (They had access, and assuming a generous 10 seconds per attempt, it would take less than 3 hours.) Not so smart.
I loved both versions. I read the novel many years ago and I loved getting to know all the characters then, but times have changed and now being a busy mum with other commitments I don't have a lot of leisure time to sit down and immerse myself in a novel. I am finding that the audible versions of my favourite books are really exciting and I can listen to them all day - driving my children around, doing my house work or on my daily walk.
Although the scene made my blood boil with anger and weep with frustration and utter devastation my favourite scene was when Mary found Hawk and rescued him from the vile disgusting mountain man.
I loved the way Mr Courtenay has captured the essence of early Australian settlement and how it came about. Old London town was a fascinating place - with the help of Mr Courtenay's detailed descriptions I felt I was there - feeling, smelling and experiencing that miserable existence of the poor. I would love to build a time machine to take me back, then come back to thank Mr Courtenay for preparing me for what I was to see and face.
The Story was historically interesting
Too many to pick just one
Each person in the story had their own voice, sometimes I forgot it was the same man reading all the characters, very well done!
All and all a great listen, mayby a bit long.
Best use of credits in a long time. Hated to finsih this 20+ hour read. Excellent narration to accompany a saga that pulls you in right from the beginning. This is a great story about the lives of 3 innertwinned from young adults over the next several decades. I've found some Bryce Courtenay material slow and tedious but this book kept me wanting more from the very beginning.
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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