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.
I read the reviews and bought the book. What a mistake. This book is a faded cliche version of a Charles Dickens or George Eliot novel with totally unrealistic features and characters and situations. Over done cliches and poor writing. If you like bad television you will like this book. I wasted my money. The narrator is good and this is my first bad experience with Audible. But I will be much more careful in the future. This one is a stinker
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.
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!
I think so, and I don't think the author even tried to disguise that fact. As a huge Dickens fan, I would have easily spotted Ikey's resemblance to Fagin, even if he hadn't mentioned in the introduction that Dickens is rumored to have based Fagin on Ikey Solomon. But there are Dickens references sprinkled all over the place.
To name a few:
One fairly major character is named "Marley", and at one point he actually said, "‘Bah, humbug!’ (It was Christmas time when we met him, I believe. And, yes, I know it was Scrooge that said it. After all, Marley was dead as a doornail.)
An urchin asks, "‘Can I ‘ave some more, missus?’ Sparrer held out the pewter mug." Sounds familiar.
Ikey's wife says, "‘Not too long, Bob. Ikey ‘as great expectations.’"
After I started spotting these, I bought the Kindle edition so I could mark the ones I caught. A glance through the introduction again showed me, "These were dark times, bleak times, hard times," There's a lot packed in there.
This would be hard to miss. A reporter meets an urchin and, "He stuck out his hand. ‘Charles Dickens. I thought I might do a small piece on you in the paper.’"
He also used the Dickens trick of naming villains in such a way that you just know you're going to hate them, like "Potbottom."
The seedy parts of London. The poor treatment of prisoners and orphan children. I could go on. Heck, I think this might be the kind of book Dickens would have written if he hadn't been writing when Queen Victoria was on the throne and you couldn't even refer to a married woman being pregnant. Can't you just imagine Dickens uncensored?!
Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll say what I think of this book. This is the third of Courtenay's novels that I have listened to. Every time, I read the description and I don't think I'm gonna like it, but I listen and I really, really do like it. This author has had me listening to books about wars, boxing, etc. and settings I am not familiar with. All of these should throw me out of my comfort zone, but they don't. The stories hook me and don't let me go.
I was glad to see that this is book one of a trilogy, because I wasn't done yet when the book ended. I am downloading the second book as I write this.
Trust me and all the other reviewers who praised this so highly. And it doesn't matter if you're not into Dickens. You might not catch all the references, but you'll still like the book.
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