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 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.
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!
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.
NV, not NY
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.
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.
I drive 55 metre roadtrains in Western Australia, a kiwi working in Australia. Love my Harley and my saxophone...
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!
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