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)
Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.
I really enjoyed this work of historical fiction. I loved the narrator, he was excellent. He did each character distinctly and with emotion. He was stunning with all the different accents. I can't wait to listen to more of his narrations.
The book was very good also, The story was fast paced and interesting. I had a little problem with the end, I felt that a little more explination was in order and the way it ended nicely and neatly in a letter from Mary I felt was not up to the standard of the rest of the book.
I bought this book because I had read others by this author. this one was very different. Fair enough it was about a gangster, but the author's obsession about sexual activity was over the top. I listened to the first few chapters and did not bother to down load the rest. It even had one woman masturbating. Not what I was really after. I would not recommend this book for as a great story.
This story evolves over the early 1800's and immerses you in the underbelly of London's poor and criminal classes with the notorious Ikey Solomon who was known as the Prince of Fences. It is great historical fiction based on this real life man who became the inspiration for Charles Dickens Fagin in Oliver Twist. Although this man was despicable, he was a product of the times and I actually grew a bit fond of him as he mellowed in the last years of his life in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).
Some great fictional characters are sprinkled into this well researched book and I will let you discover them for yourself. There are some tough scenes you need to survive (I've seen some reviewers here gave up in reaction to gritty situations). It is worth it to follow the book to its uplifting end. The expression "Always leave a little salt on the bread" will forever resonate with me from this moment on.
I would never have bought a book entitled "The Potato Factory" if a few thousand people hadn't recommended it. Even then I was reluctant. But, after reading the book, it is a perfect title. It is funny you only get and like the title after reading the book. It is something that doesn't grab you when scanning for your next audible purchase.
Fortunately I am primed for the second title in this trilogy, "Tommo and Hawk". It makes perfect sense as a heading and I immediately bought the second book after finishing "The Potato Factory".
Audible is a really great way to escape into different worlds. I love "reading" and discovering new authors and stories.
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.
This book is very graphic. It was depressing and pretty much all the characters are evil. I wish Audible had some kind of rating system. I only made it through 2 hours and will be returning it for a refund.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
I was too snooty to read these books for a long time. Then I started to listen to them and fell into the spell. Yes, there are better books. But, for entertainment, great characters and a world-class narrator, these are at the top of the heap. And, as a terrific bonus, I always learn something from this author. I just listened to this series over a two-week period and was completely swept into the world of Mary Abacus. Terrific summer books!
Of the zillions of books I have listened to this one is by far my favorite. The narrator is great. I loved reading about the real Ikey Soloman after I finished the book. I loved it so much I am ordering the other two books in the trilogy.
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!
The story of Ikey and Mary was very interesting and I learned a great deal of Australian history as the author had intended.
I also felt that the story is a bit dragged and it was hard to keep the concentration through these parts.
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