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The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1 | [Bryce Courtenay]

The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1

Always leave a little salt on the bread. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Always leave a little salt on the bread...

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)

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (3452 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 10-02-12
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 10-02-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
    ratings
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    323
    40
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I feel like a better person."
    What did you love best about The Potato Factory?

    I love historical novels! I've never read or listened to an Aussie book. The details and flow of this novel were terrific. The characters were engaging, even though most were rotten to their cores.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Too difficult to tell without giving spoilers.


    What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?

    His different accents were great. Also, his rhythm and word flow made the story even more interesting.


    If you could rename The Potato Factory, what would you call it?

    It was titled well.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mark SAINT LOUIS, MO, United States 06-22-12
    mark SAINT LOUIS, MO, United States 06-22-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very depressing"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Frankly I think the author has a problem. This book is just depressing. I love historical history, but like to see some good in the characters. IMHO Bryce is sick. The part in the book where one of the characters gets her hand broken but the other workers is just sick and not needed for the story. I stopped listening to this book about 4 hours in because it was just one evil person after another.


    What was most disappointing about Bryce Courtenay’s story?

    He is obsessed with suffering


    Have you listened to any of Humphrey Bower’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I liked him


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fred carson city, NV, United States 06-01-11
    Fred carson city, NV, United States 06-01-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
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    324
    5
    FOLLOWERS
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    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Talk about mean people!"

    This is the 4th of Brice's books I have listened to. I like how the good guy always wins. In this book, the cruelty done to the main female character was hard to listen to. I had to run it at 2X. The horse guy dragging her son around was a bit over the top.
    He does a good job at showing how stupid the old belief system really is. I am from Georgia (another penal colony) and can see parallels in racist beliefs. He shows the down side of the misapplication of social Darwinism, and how people are deeply affected by the economic and social environment they live in.
    It makes me wonder what the US will be like when we reach the same point in our post industrial development.
    The brutality in this book makes it my least liked one so far. I am struggling with the decision to listen to the remainder of the trilogy.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sara Chevy Chase, MD, United States 03-04-11
    Sara Chevy Chase, MD, United States 03-04-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    72
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    31
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    2
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    "Review of the Trilogy"

    I'm going to review the entire Austrailian Trilogy here because the storyline continues throughout the three books, and the first two end in cliff hangers, making it impossible to stop after either of them. Nevertheless, the writing style and tone changes quite a bit from the first to the third and, unfortunately, goes downhill.

    The Potato Factory is wonderful. It is very Dickensian, and although I don't really like the grittiness of Dickens, I loved the story and characters Courtenay creates. Tommo and Hawk starts out very character driven as well, but gets bogged down in endless descriptions of the Maori struggles. It also contains several cringe-inducing sex scenes, which are made all the more embarrassing by Humphrey Bower's explicit narration (leaving no moan or groan to the imagination). I was mortified when my son walked into the room to see what was going on. And, then comes Solomon's Song, which can only be explained by an assumption that Courtenay was worn out. I know it wore me out. Hours were devoted to details of battle tactics at Gallipoli and later France, including readings of very long letters to and from the front. Although dozens of new characters were introduced, for the most part they were merely vehicles to get across the author's views on the horrors of war. I was eager for the book to end, but then the conclsion was so abrubt and unsatisfying, I spent the rest of the evening annoyed.

    I'm giving the trilogy a 4 because the Potato Factory was so excellent and Tommo and Hawk quite good. Also, notwithstanding Bower's sex-scene renderings, his narration was great.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth L. Vitale USA New England 12-22-10
    Elizabeth L. Vitale USA New England 12-22-10 Member Since 2005

    grandmasecrets

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    4
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "Darkness & Redemption"

    A dark & difficult story at times, yet once again, great characters with depth & complexity make this a fascinating read. The first book of the Australian Trilogy, I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens in the lives & generations of the Solomon & related families. The story continues in Tommo and Hawk, and then Solomon's Song -- a great saga.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail El Cajon, CA, United States 09-07-10
    Gail El Cajon, CA, United States 09-07-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    229
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    258
    123
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    41
    3
    Overall
    "Well Done!"

    Read the reviews and gave it a try and now I am hooked on the Courtenay an Bower combo. It serves a meaty story full of history and entanglements . This isn't a feel good kind of story until the bitter end. If your looking for some romance, there isn't any in this book. I am ready to listen to the next book. Enjoy!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Priscilla D'agostino South Florida 12-13-07
    Priscilla D'agostino South Florida 12-13-07 Member Since 2001

    Prissydag

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    33
    15
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    Overall
    "Laugh Cry Enjoy"

    This book took me in so many directions at once and all were worth the trip. Loved it!!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    geekrevival USA 01-10-06
    geekrevival USA 01-10-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    1
    1
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    0
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    "Shortens the car ride"

    A fun story - bit silly to have Dickens, Artful Dodger show up - but I understand the reference, even though the attempt to mimic Dickens' atmospherics is strained at times.

    It sounds like I am alone in my assessment of the narration - the droning, whiney voice was hard to deal with. Also could not help noticing that there was the same "once-size-fits-all" voice for each upper class Brit, and the voice of Ikey is straight from Fagin's in the "Oliver" musical.So I would recommend for the car ride - otherwise stick to "Oliver Twist" and "The Fatal Shore".

    3 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carmel melbourne, Australia 03-28-14
    carmel melbourne, Australia 03-28-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    "This is the first book that I could not download"
    Would you try another book from Bryce Courtenay and/or Humphrey Bower?

    Lost my confidence in audible because of this book. I really wanted to read it. I love Humphrey bower also. But if I can't download, what is the purpose of wasting my money


    Would you ever listen to anything by Bryce Courtenay again?

    Yes


    Would you be willing to try another one of Humphrey Bower’s performances?

    Yes


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-15-08
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-15-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    65
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    212
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    4
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    Overall
    "Terrible"

    This book is a 3rd rate Dickens story with a whiff of antisemitism. It features the main characters being subjected all kinds of violent occurrences and then triumphing. The writing is in many cases weak and or boring. I'd give it 1 star but I liked the narration.

    1 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 311-320 of 321 results PREVIOUS1313233NEXT
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  • Katie
    Ormskirk, Lancashire, United Kingdom
    3/5/09
    Overall
    "Fab!"

    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

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Grange-over-Sands, United Kingdom
    8/1/09
    Overall
    "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!!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • KIM
    Bognor Regis, United Kingdom
    3/31/12
    Overall
    "Great Tale!"

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jeanette
    England
    12/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Always leave a little Salt on the Bread !!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    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 ....


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

    without a doubt " My Dear !" it is most definately.... Ikey Solomon..


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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 !"


    Any additional comments?

    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!!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kim
    Liestal, Switzerland
    3/28/12
    Overall
    "Absolutely brilliant"

    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?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alicia
    10/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hilary
    Shepton Mallet, Somerset, United Kingdom
    10/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Stunning!"

    This is the first of a trilogy; I listened and had to buy the next two volumes. Well written, well plotted, well researched, and Humphrey Bower is rapidly becoming a serious contender for my number 1 narrator. Awesome.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Linda
    Birmingham
    9/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Victorian reality not Dickens soap opera"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    Just a brilliant story written in a compelling dialogue and narrated superbly.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the story developed drawing you further in with every page.


    What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The characters are brought to life and will now be forever as Humphrey Bower depicts them unforgettably emblazoned on my mind.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed out loud a number of times and wept to hear Mary's awful beating by the male clerks....so sad.


    Any additional comments?

    This book may not immediately appeal from the introductions but this is pure gold as a wonderful unforgettable read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anne
    9/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gripping tale"
    Would you listen to The Potato Factory again? Why?

    Yes, brilliant read (always a pleasure to listen to Humphrey Bower), brought Dickensian London to life and interesting about the prison settlements in Australia.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Funny as well as sad


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

    Isaac Solomon - a true Fagin


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Zoey
    London, United Kingdom
    4/23/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An excellent trilogy, download all three"

    I loved these books, the narrator was fantastic as was the author. I cannot recommend enough

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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