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".
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.
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!
I loved this book from start to finish. I rate it at 4.75 stars. If you're looking for epic historical fiction, in a similar style as Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth series, then this is the book for you. I really enjoyed learning about Australia's history (at least the first part of it -- later parts are to come in the next books in this series), and I thought the author did an excellent job of incorporating the characters into that history. I was really drawn into the lives and emotions of two of the main characters, but also of the tertiary characters who played only a minor, background role but helped show the poverty, harshness and cruelty of the time. Related to this, the author's descriptions of the sights and, notably, smells of the slums of England at the time were very well done. The narrator of the audiobook was also excellent, with an incredible ability to deliver dialogue in many different accents, all of them very believable and natural. While I agree with some of the other reviewers that there are a few very violent scenes that are depicted in (sometimes gruesome) detail, it is certainly no worse than similar types of scenes in other historical novels dealing with the violence of the time. Highly recommend!
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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