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)
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
I found this story of nineteenth century England and then Australia and their people to be absolutely fascinating . . . interesting, sad, maddening, disgusting, and it made me quite relieved that I do not come from the "upper crust". As downright awful as it was for the street urchins, prostitutes and pick pockets of that day and time to steal and do all the things that they did to survive, it was (and still is) much more disgusting to hear about what the well-to-do folks did, and how the religious "orphanages" operated. Brings new meaning to, "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven." Pure evil existed and still does, but you find yourself identifying with many of the people in The Potato Factory . . . many of whom operate with a distinct set of moral code . . . even though they be prostitutes and thieves. And you begin to think, there but by the Grace of God, go I. I never knew that England sent prisoners to Australia until I listened to this audio book. Can't wait to get the next book in the trilogy.
This story evolves over the early 1800's and immerses you in the underbelly of London's poor and criminal classes with the notorious Ikey Solomon who was known as the Prince of Fences. It is great historical fiction based on this real life man who became the inspiration for Charles Dickens Fagin in Oliver Twist. Although this man was despicable, he was a product of the times and I actually grew a bit fond of him as he mellowed in the last years of his life in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).
Some great fictional characters are sprinkled into this well researched book and I will let you discover them for yourself. There are some tough scenes you need to survive (I've seen some reviewers here gave up in reaction to gritty situations). It is worth it to follow the book to its uplifting end. The expression "Always leave a little salt on the bread" will forever resonate with me from this moment on.
I would never have bought a book entitled "The Potato Factory" if a few thousand people hadn't recommended it. Even then I was reluctant. But, after reading the book, it is a perfect title. It is funny you only get and like the title after reading the book. It is something that doesn't grab you when scanning for your next audible purchase.
Fortunately I am primed for the second title in this trilogy, "Tommo and Hawk". It makes perfect sense as a heading and I immediately bought the second book after finishing "The Potato Factory".
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
For me this read like exactly what it is--a first book by a very talented writer. It seemed to me that Courtenay loved his material--the historical character at the center of his novel and the extraordinary age of Dickens, so colorful that only a florid and artfully circumlocuted literary style could manage to describe it. On the other hand, he never really took control of his story the way Dickens would have. The plot wanders, held hostage perhaps by the historical record which inspired it, and we wait overlong for story lines to converge and come to a head. As a result, I became impatient at times, not because the book was long but because it was diffuse.
Along the way, however, the author delivers several wonderful, tightly constructed episodes which could hardly be improved upon for building tension and powerful effect. Mary's sea voyage as a convict, her one woman mission to find her lost son in the wilderness, and Ikey's escape from the authorities were all riveting and a joy to listen to. And Courtenay's evocation of the period and its own particular glories and cruelties is, by turns, delightful, chilling and enraging. It would be difficult to read this book without having a strong emotional response.
Humphrey Bower's voice is simply gorgeous, (as an actor I am jealous) and he creates marvelous characters with it. He does clearly miss the occasional inflection, delivering a meaning contrary to the text in some minor way, and his unaccountable pronunciation of "boatswain" with all the letters present and accounted for was jarring, but seeing him listed as narrator for another book would make it more likely that I would buy it.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
I enjoyed it, but it took awhile for them to get to Australia. I was wondering for a bit if I bought the right book. I will listen to the next one in the series to see what happens next, so that means this book was a success for me.
I loved the character of Mary Abacus. All of the horrible things that happened to her and yet she still wanted the chance to start over and make something of her life. She was an inspiration.
His accents were wonderful and very easy to tell which character was speaking. A wonderful job!
Way too long, so this was one I enjoyed listening to a few hours at a time and cherish the story.
In the course of a 23.5 hour book there are bound to be a few slow moments, but what's so surprising is that are so few. Besides the fact that Courtenay can write an action scene like nobody's business, I love the education his novels impart. He also leads you into the deepest pits of despair before springing back to the crests of elation with the skill of a master. No matter how long Courtenay's books, they are never long enough. You're in for a treat with this one as there are two more books in this amazing tale.
I read the reviews and bought the book. What a mistake. This book is a faded cliche version of a Charles Dickens or George Eliot novel with totally unrealistic features and characters and situations. Over done cliches and poor writing. If you like bad television you will like this book. I wasted my money. The narrator is good and this is my first bad experience with Audible. But I will be much more careful in the future. This one is a stinker
I've listened to many of Bryce Courtenay's books, and this is not one of his better ones. The ending was especially disappointing. It almost seemed as if he got tired of writing and just forced the ending.
An unashamed Audiophile who has his own studio and business called iZENEARS which brings Australian travel and history to life for locals and visitor's alike.
Why I have ignored Bryce's work for so many years I can only put down to some vague sense of snobbery after all, how could an 'Ad Man&' actually write. The Potato Factory was my first choice for I have a deep, albeit new, connection with Tasmania and the Power of One with all its associated hoopla wasn't going to do it for this cynic.
Well, I bow to a master story teller and apologies for making assumptions, at least in this book, that were totally unjustified. The astringency, pain, suffering, smells, colours, sounds were so well described that even someone devoid of imagination could have all their senses triggered through Humphrey Bower's great gift of sound acting.
I urge you to listen for if you have an interest in historical tales this one cannot disappoint you in any shape or form.
That being said, I am not sure who the sound producer was but listen closely and from time to time as your mind, ears and sense of smell dwell far away in the streets of early London or in the lowlands of Mt Wellington in Tasmania, you will hear that unique ping of someone either turning on or off a computer. Very grounding maybe but an unnecessary distraction; as audios interuptus, it rather spoiled the moment.
Wow. Quite the story. I'm sure it would have been a brutal era in which to live. (I'm glad I didn't.) Some bits very graphic but they only convey the harshness of those times. Interesting story. Narrator does an excellent job with male and female voices. Even a little singing involved. REALLY enjoyed it. Now going on to book #2 in the series.
Great story honesty, survival and triumph of wonderful people. In the true spirit of love and respect it tells of the greatness and the darkness in much of our English and Jewish ancestry. Love the work of both the author and the narrator.
"Fabulous, moving and Real"
Fantastic book better listened to than read because of the fabulous narrator who brings it to life with accurate accents and creative voices for each character. absolutely loved it.
Yet again BC wrote a novel that fully transports the reader to the setting...be it rather brutal in a number of places.
"Good historical novel with plenty of twists"
The Potato Factory covers the period of English history when villains were readily hanged or transported to the new world of Australia or Tasmania (Van Demons Land).
Ikey, the main character is the rouge on whom Fagin could have been based, he ran a gang of young boys teaching them all the tricks they would need for a life of crime, and making profit from them at the same time, but he had his fingers in many pies, fencing and forging of bank notes, this later was his downfall
The scramble to avoid arrest by the Bank of England officers by removing the high value printing plates from where the press is kept and as much of value that he can hide elsewhere.
"An excellent trilogy, download all three"
I loved these books, the narrator was fantastic as was the author. I cannot recommend enough
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.