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)
"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…..
I have already recommeded this book to a friend! The writing paints such a vibrant picture while the performance of Humphrey Bower brings it to life.
Mr. Bowers performance was the best I have ever heard in an audiobook. His ability to give each character a different and very specific voice is unbelieveable. He brought the characters to life. More than once when listening while driving to work I missed my turn, completely absorbed in the story.
EPIC! Though I cannot believe an movie could ever get the detail portrayed in this book.
The descriptive writing put me in London in 1830's and in Hobart town of 1840's. Loved this book and glad it is part of a trilogy so I can keep listening!
How Bryce Courtenay came up with all these wonderful characters and stories narrated by Humphrey Bower completely amazes me.
Whenever I want to be entertained I simply start on a Bryce Courtenay / Humphrey Bower book.
I have bought them all, even Whitethorn. It's listed on Audible, but they won't sell it to "people in my jurisdiction". I bought it on CD from Amazon.
That's how much I like Bryce Courtenay / Humphrey Bower. What more needs to be said.
I highly recommend this book. The story line was original!
I loved the story and the reader
I thought the reading of the story was very good. He was able to differentiate the characters in this story and paint a picture of them with his voice. I think the story was well researched and provided insight to a period of time and place that I did not know much about. However, the ending of the story felt rushed. it was almost as if he found it easier to describe the horrific things that happened, but didn't know how to end it. I was ultimately left feeling unsatisfied. After listening to so many hours of terrible things, even with the indomnitable spirit of Mary Abacus, I found myself saying, really, that's how you're going to end it.
However, the characters were well drawn and the story was told without apology for the good and bad in each. These are characters that will stay with me for awhile. That is saying something.
This is a most engaging story, telling the history of early Australia and the lives of convicts. Humphrey Bower is a very talented man and reads this story with the utmost conviction, engaging the listener with the various voices and accents with precise accuracy.
Ikey Soloman, an intriguing character.
No, but this performance will lead me to look for other books he has read.
I have really enjoyed this book, and reach for it at every spare and convenient moment.
Highly recommend, Bryce Courtney is an amazing story teller, he includes cultural and historical facts that educate you while entertaining you with a great story!!
Kimberly Thornbury, busy working mom and lover of audio books.
I enjoyed this book very much. One of the main characters, Mary, was not too saintly to be real, and I feel she is one of the most endearing heroines in literature. These qualities made her horrific trials difficult to listen to and her victories so very sweet. (Great "historical fiction" as well - I learned much about the "Charles Dickens" time period of London.) Excellent ending.
Tell us about yourself!
Weren't there any good things to focus on? I felt sick to my stomach and they werent even on the boats yet.
Bought the trilogy based on the reviews and was hoping for a good read about the history of Australia. Working up the courage to listen to the 2nd book.
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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