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)
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.
The story is amazing, and so are all the characters of the book. Writen with a rithym you can never stop.
The personality of all the characters. All of them are different and address life according to their vision of the world
I have read/heard many audiobooks, but I find this narrator the best I've ever heard. I really don't know if I would have liked the three books better, if read by myself
Mary Abacus. Her strenght and sense of justice. She never gives up!
I really enjoyed this book and also learned a lot about the history of Australia, plus Ikey Solomon, who was a real person. The novel goes into great detail (sometimes too much detail - I found myself saying, "Come on, just get on with it!" in several places) - but as a whole, I thought it was very good.
There are comments that the novel is anti-Semitic and I went into listening to it with an open mind, but unfortunately I think the comments are true. I found out five years ago that I'm Jewish, so I'm more sensitive to things like that and I was resenting a few of the things he said. I don't know if it was because there was a lot of prejudice in the early days of London and Australia against the Jews - after all, he was very historically accurate - however some of the comments - at least to me - were not necessary. There are racially-biased comments against the Aborigines, but I know that there has been a lot of prejudice against them in the past.
The novel covers a lot of time and I enjoyed it. I would have given it five stars if it wasn't for the too-extensive detail at times, plus the prejudiced remarks.
Having been an Audible member since 2004, I have a large library and this will definitely rank in my top 10 reads. The rich characters, the incredible language and the engaging story combined with an excellent reader makes this worth every minute.
The story is expertly brought to life by Humphrey Bower's narration - he does a great job with all the different characters and accents.
"Always leave a little salt on the bread, my dears..."
It is really hard to add to some of the great previous reviews, but I really loved this book. The ease and craft with which Courtenay brings London, in the early 1800’s, alive, with its pickpockets, thieves, orphans and whores, is masterful. In the forward, Courtney states his significant effort and research to make this trilogy a historically accurate portrayal of the events and times. This comes across in the richness and believability of his characters with their independent stories and intersecting lives. The result is a real pleasure to read. Ikey, the successful master fence and “trainer/father-figure/runner” of orphan street kids is an intelligent and complex character that one grudgingly finds likeable at some level. His partnership with the indomitable Mary Abacus, with her innate genius for business and her ability to triumph over the extreme adversities in her life, is one of mutual benefit and ultimately muted affection. Their activities ultimately result in their being parted and each must make the harsh journey from thriving nineteenth century London to Hobart Town, 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 shrew of a wife, Hannah, her old enemy. The two women raise their separate families, one legitimate and the other bastard. The story of Mary’s two “adopted” twin boys, one black and one white, is surreal, sets the stage for the second book, and not to be missed. As each woman sets out to destroy the other, the families are brought to the edge of disaster. This book - part one of a trilogy - is a heart-rendering novel of the souls that were taken to 'The fatal shore' of Australia and survived against ALL odds. This is a story of passion and pain, as well as the careful creation of characters that you won't soon forget and learn to care about. Courtenay creates a novel that is reminiscent of a cross between Dickens and Hemingway - full of passion, yet using a 'down to earth' style of prose with characters that you either hate, appreciate, or love, but are never bored with.
The second book of the trilogy, “Tommo & Hawk” is equally wonderful and engrossing. It made me laugh and cry with, and at, the characters, but more about that later…..
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