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 enjoyed this book very much. It has a good story and wonderful characters. It moves at a good pace and there were never any dull moments. This is the second book I've listened to read by Humphrey Bower. He does voices so good that between the writer's description and Bower's voice I felt I could see them clear as day. Great book!
I really enjoyed listening to this book. It is a terrific story that grabbed me from the very beginning and I highly recommend it. The narrator is one of the best I've ever heard.
One of the best authors of all time! The narrator, Humphrey Bower is also incredibly talented. This is one of Bryce Courteny's best. Bryce Courtenay is a writer of modern day classics. This book will have laughing, crying and engrossed from the start.
There is a sequel and I wish audible would make it available.
Previously, I'd listened to "Power of One" and "Tandia," both of which i'd recommend more highly than this. That being said, this is still one of the top 10 audio books i've ever heard. I was skeptical of downloading it after some bad reviews, but my hunger for more Courtenay outweighed this. I'm very glad I did. Great historical fiction with all the hallmarks of Bryce Courtenay. Memorable characters, great dialog, attention to detail, pacing, and plotting. Humphrey Bower does a stellar job with narration.
That being said: A warning. One of the main characters, Ikey Solomon, is a problematic character, and he inhabits the very harsh world of London's criminal underbelly. Especially near the beginning there are some difficult scenes. One review referred to the 'lack of moral compass' and another to a 'whiff of antisemitism.' However, I feel strongly that the characters follow very redemptory arc and the books view of London Jews in this era is more factual than slanted. I take Ikey's interactions with several Rabbis and honest Jewish people as an example of this. Another is his latter interactions with American Jews in New York. (This, in particular, is an illuminating section) Ikey is a man who grew up fighting for survival, poor and part of a demonized minority and adapted to the situation by developing his own particular brand of moral relativism. However, it's more a character study of this man than a characterization of Jews, and Courtenay places signposts in the story to keep any alert reader aware of this fact. Ikey comes to be very likable, but it takes a long time for this to happen, nearly until the end of the book.
However, if you're easily upset by scenes of violence and depravity or might be offended by a Jewish protagonist who fits, in many ways, the worst of Jewish stereotypes, you might want to steer clear. Otherwise, I heartily recommend The Potato Factory!
Let me start with what I liked about this book. It was real, in a sense. If you are sick of books where the likeable petty criminal escapes with a clever move, or the blushing virgin escapes a would-be rapist with virginity intact, you might appreciate his style.
Also - I liked that the author agrees with the true and oft-overlooked concept that women who are victims of rape can still be functioning members of society...even successful and self-assured.
What I couldn't take was the gratuitous cruelty he inflicts upon his characters. If you enjoy getting emotionally involved in a character's progress through the plot, then having to sit through a graphic description of gang rape after gang rape, well, so be it.
I listen to audiobooks while I drift off to sleep, and this one gave me some pretty traumatic middle-of-the-night kicks to the head.
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.
Glad to be part of the audible community and I hope that my reviews help to choose the right book and share my love of reading.
If you read my reviews, you will notice that I don't like predictability. Fear not! This book has so many twists and turns and is so rich in historical details, that you will not be bored, not longwinded, but transported to a rough past. This book is absolutely awesome. So well written!!! Worth the credit(s).
The richness and the details of story. History became alive. It felt like a thriller with unpredictable characters, unknown circumstances and never heard of traditions from the 1800's. Awesome descriptions. Excellent peek into human nature. What a mind!! Thanks Mr. Courtenay!
I loved the story about the "rat races" - I could not have even have come up with a plot or scheme like that!!
Humphrey Bowers is awesome - he added to the richness and the life of this book. Mr. Courtenay was the creator, yet Mr. Bowers breathed life into the narration.
I am reading second book now, and am looking forward to listen to my book every day. You won't regret the purchase.
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!
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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