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 am certainly happy that I had the pleasure of reading the Power of One and then Tandia. The Potato Factory was highly recommended by many Audible reviewer's and by a close friend who also is a lover of books by Bruce Courtenay. My biggest problem was the fact that except for one character, for the most part the main characters were horrible people for whom you could not have much sympathy. Try as I might I simply could not give myself any reason to care about what was happening to them. I admit that the last quarter of the book was somewhat better in that regard. Also, the storyline and different significant events were so completely implausible that it was difficult to get involved. The minor stories and little anecdotes or sometimes quite interesting, but a number of them had nothing to do with the central storyline . This was certainly not the case with the earlier books. just as in the earlier books, the narrator was incredibly good.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
I feel for Janice in Texas who was grossed out by this book. I admit I was as well, but I am not a priss or prig or prude or born-again. As I once told a frowning intake worker, "If I lived it, you can bloody well listen to it!" As this book is based on real events, I hung in there and was so glad I did! And what a totally filthy and depraved lot these folks were back in low-life London! Thank Heaven my own Brit ancestors had nothing to do with this lot! So the early part of the book is rather like Dickens. We have high IQ, talent, dedication, cleverness, charm, and incredible double-dealing even between husband and wife. We feel for the exploited children, women forced into prostitution, a thoroughly corrupt police and legal system.
Courtenay manages to find hope and potential and good survival energy in the most miserable people! This is the strong spiritual content the listener has to wait for! Whatever happens to them, they find courage and healing and hope to go on. I loved Mary with her ruined hands and pretty green eyes and great intelligence. Despite corruption among the authorities, she set things on a new course first when she begged to teach the orphans, and later when she confronted pilfering in a company. When most of us would just do our job and go home to supper and rest, Mary is doing even more and trying even harder. I slowly realized that Mary never was a criminal but simply a most unfortunate little girl turned woman. As to the origins of Tommo and Hawk, well, if I ever get to Australia, I will understand the people a whole lot better. They seem like Californians on the surface, but . . . not hardly!
I had technical difficulties with Part 3 which were never solved. iRene iPod kept jamming. I would poke her tummy to reset, call audible, talk to nice people in Jamaica, only to have it happen again. Still, listening on iTunes on the computer wasn't so bad.
And once again Humphrey Bower has done his magic with all the characters. I am still smiling, remembering his rendition of the big girl's song about the pussy!
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.
Audiobooks are BOOKS.! I hate reviews that complain about the narrator for not being an actor. Use your mind the same as when you read.
I think so, and I don't think the author even tried to disguise that fact. As a huge Dickens fan, I would have easily spotted Ikey's resemblance to Fagin, even if he hadn't mentioned in the introduction that Dickens is rumored to have based Fagin on Ikey Solomon. But there are Dickens references sprinkled all over the place.
To name a few:
One fairly major character is named "Marley", and at one point he actually said, "‘Bah, humbug!’ (It was Christmas time when we met him, I believe. And, yes, I know it was Scrooge that said it. After all, Marley was dead as a doornail.)
An urchin asks, "‘Can I ‘ave some more, missus?’ Sparrer held out the pewter mug." Sounds familiar.
Ikey's wife says, "‘Not too long, Bob. Ikey ‘as great expectations.’"
After I started spotting these, I bought the Kindle edition so I could mark the ones I caught. A glance through the introduction again showed me, "These were dark times, bleak times, hard times," There's a lot packed in there.
This would be hard to miss. A reporter meets an urchin and, "He stuck out his hand. ‘Charles Dickens. I thought I might do a small piece on you in the paper.’"
He also used the Dickens trick of naming villains in such a way that you just know you're going to hate them, like "Potbottom."
The seedy parts of London. The poor treatment of prisoners and orphan children. I could go on. Heck, I think this might be the kind of book Dickens would have written if he hadn't been writing when Queen Victoria was on the throne and you couldn't even refer to a married woman being pregnant. Can't you just imagine Dickens uncensored?!
Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll say what I think of this book. This is the third of Courtenay's novels that I have listened to. Every time, I read the description and I don't think I'm gonna like it, but I listen and I really, really do like it. This author has had me listening to books about wars, boxing, etc. and settings I am not familiar with. All of these should throw me out of my comfort zone, but they don't. The stories hook me and don't let me go.
I was glad to see that this is book one of a trilogy, because I wasn't done yet when the book ended. I am downloading the second book as I write this.
Trust me and all the other reviewers who praised this so highly. And it doesn't matter if you're not into Dickens. You might not catch all the references, but you'll still like the book.
There are so many good books in the world to read, don't waste time on the crappy ones !
The Power of One was such a classic and a very much loved book that I have read a number of times over the years. When I heard that Bryce had sadly passed away I was moved to read something else written by him so I purchased this Title. I found the history aspect of the novel really interesting, especially the early days of Van Dieman's Land. However, I was disappointed in the story itself as it moved far too slowly with absolutely nothing happening at times. Apart from the two main protagonists, I could not get into the other various characters who seemed to me to be contrived and just not 'believable'. As much as I wanted to love this book I couldn't and won't be purchasing the rest of the triology.
My favorite books are historical fiction. (Michener) I love to finish a book with a new sense of culture or history. So, I am new to Bryce Courtney, and have loved the Australian Trilogy, starting with this one, followed by Tommo and Hawk and then, Solomon's Song. The narration is outstanding, and such a pleasure to listen to.
Then, I moved on to The Power of One, and Tandia. Again, a marvelous listening experience.
Humphrey Bower deserves 5 stars and more. He differentiates the characters beautifully.
The only reason that I didn't give the overall books 5 stars, is that I thought that some of the beating scenes, and boxing scenes were unnecessarily long or redundant. But, the observation of human nature and well-developed dialogue made these books very memorable and worthwhile.
This is the first Bryce C I have read, have avoided him in the past cause I perceived him to be a bit of a fast food restaurant type author.... well I loved this book, and the whole trilogy... Was it because I am a New Zealander living in Australia?, as the book took place in both places.. No, this book would grab you no matter where you live... a great insight into early ship travel and whaling and life in the 1800's in England and the colonies... Great...
I downloaded this several months ago, just because the reviews were so great. But it didn't seem like something I would enjoy, so I sort of ignored it. Once I started listening I finished it in less then 3 days! I agree with one reviewer, in the beginning it does remind one of a Dickens novel, but as the story unwinds, it gets better and better. Mr. Courtenay actually created a character in Ikey that I loved to hate in the beginning, and then just loved... The twists and turns of the scams had me in stitches! Thank you Mr. Courtenay for starting another career at age 55!
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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