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Publisher's Summary

Always leave a little salt on the bread...

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.

©2013 Christine Courtenay (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    2,941
  • 4 Stars
    1,285
  • 3 Stars
    397
  • 2 Stars
    143
  • 1 Stars
    139

Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    2,874
  • 4 Stars
    648
  • 3 Stars
    166
  • 2 Stars
    49
  • 1 Stars
    57

Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    2,383
  • 4 Stars
    915
  • 3 Stars
    288
  • 2 Stars
    114
  • 1 Stars
    96
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Lizzy
  • WASHINGTON CROSSING, PA, United States
  • 08-06-14

Excellent

I can pictures the characters in my head. If I had money and could find the talent, I would turn this into a HBO Series.

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Dian
  • Ormeau, Australia
  • 07-16-14

Favourite Author

Fabulous book, very graphic. Hard to put down. Excellent Reader. After reading this book I couldn't wait to read the second in the Trilogy.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • happy
  • Boston, MA United States
  • 07-02-14

Fantastic!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Potato Factory to be better than the print version?

Not having read the printed page, I can't say definitively. But the narrator was phenomenal!!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Potato Factory?

Mary Abacus receiving her boys.

What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?

His ability to seamlessly go between characters and his use of intonation for each character was great!

If you could take any character from The Potato Factory out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Mary Abacus!!!

Any additional comments?

Wonderful story and terrific telling of it. Could not wait for my monthly credit to come and had to pay for the second book :)

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  • Story
  • Jodie
  • United States
  • 06-09-14

Great Narrator!

So often the narrator can make or break a story. Humphrey Bower definitely makes this book come to life! One of the best narrators that I’ve heard. The story itself is well written and very interesting from a historical point of few. While I was entertained throughout, it felt like Bryce Courtenay took the easy way out at the end and just ended the story abruptly. That’s the main reason for the four stars instead of five. Overall an enjoyable listen.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Why do I care how you take your tea?

Many reviewers have compared this book to Dickens. I wasn't looking for Dickens. I was looking for a very compelling story, which this had potential to be. Unfortunately, the book headed south for me after the first half.

There are many authors who get very descriptive in the details. One of my favorites is Diana Gabaldon. She really puts you in the moment. I some how find myself imagining the sprawling meadow sprinkled with a very detailed account of some yellow flower. It adds to the experience of the book. And in this novel, buried under far too many descriptions about how each character takes their tea (and pretty much everything else), there is a really good story. I just didn't want to work that hard to find it.

I was not bothered by topics of race, religion, sex or overall very disturbing, graphic violence, but it is worth noting for those with a stronger moral reading compass than I. These things for me invoked emotion that made me vested in the characters outcome, and eventually made it possible for me to get to the end of the book.

The book did start out great. The story does pull you in rather quickly, but I can't help the feeling that the last 3 hours or so, was just fluff combined with a meandering need to complete the book. I wish the book had ended as strongly as it started.

A couple of audio specific things to consider: 1. The narrator does speak a little quicker than I was accustomed to, but I was able to adjust to the faster cadence after a few minutes. 2. The prologue goes on for a while and comes close to spoiling some of the suspense of the story. I recommend skipping it and if you haven't gotten tired of tea descriptions by the end, go back and have a listen. 3. They split the sections in really inconvenient places. It's like someone took a calculator and said, "Yep, that's a third... ." 4. It's harder to skim with audio, and this is definitely a book I would have wanted to skim over some details. 5. On the plus side, there was a bit of singing. Who doesn't like singing? 6. Was it me? Or did Ikey sometimes sound like Jack Sparrow?

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Flawless Narration of a Highly Intiguing Story

This was my first time listening to a Humphrey Bower narration, and I could not be more impressed! He read this amazing tale with so much emotion and brought each character to life. Every character had their own voice, quirks, and speaking tempo. Humphrey Bower is the gold standard for narrations!

The story itself is simply excellent. Although it is quite long, it never feels to drag on - Courtenay develops each of the characters with so much depth, that you cannot help but cheer for the Despicable Isaac Solomon. Solomon and Mary Abacus make a wonderful team without falling into the typical plot lines of forcing a love story. While love is there, Courtenay stays true to the story and the desires and ambitions of his main characters. The transformation of Isaac Solomon throughout the book is fantastic - and even as he tries to move away from a life of crime and slowly becomes more human, he always remains the same, horrible person at his core. The only character I would have loved to see more of was the amazing Sperm Whale Sally.

The criticisms that the story was vulgar or racist are simply unfounded. There is certainly language, and some pretty graphic sexual scenes, they are never over the top or out of context. Everything is well written and intricately planned to develop the characters and progress the story line.

I cannot wait to start book two, as the development of Hawk's character towards the end of this book left me yearning for much more!

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The journey

This book tells of the life of two main characters, their struggles, character growth, strength and endurance through great hardship. Survival in a tough brutal life and the opportunity to start fresh in a new land. It is very well written and the narration is superb. A very entertaining journey. I have purchased the next book and will continue the story in book 2

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  • Sherry
  • United States
  • 04-16-14

Great Charaters

If you could sum up The Potato Factory in three words, what would they be?

An interesting story.

Have you listened to any of Humphrey Bower’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Humphry Bower is an amazing character reader. He does the story justice and can sing pretty well, too.

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  • Craig
  • US, Canada
  • 04-14-14

Exceptional writing and memorable characters

If you could sum up The Potato Factory in three words, what would they be?

Full of surprises.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Isaac Simon, and his panoply of narcissistic, antisocial and paranoid character traits. Although they were modified at a glacial pace, he evolved over the course of decades, into an individual who was able to love, mourn, and lose more than a scintilla of his self-defeating character pathology. His intelligence permitted him to gain partial insight into the role that he played in the creation and influence of the vicissitudes of his life and of some of those he encountered during the course of his lifetime.

Which scene was your favorite?

Isaac Simon's search for "Sperm Whale Sally".

Who was the most memorable character of The Potato Factory and why?

Mary "Abacus", whose kindness and evolving willingness to forgive and to persevere in spite of severe, recurrent acts of cruelty, to which she was repeatedly exposed. She was willing to do almost anything in order to survive and assist those she loved.

Any additional comments?

I am planning to acquire the second book in this series, and then the third and final book in the series,

  • Overall
  • Performance
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  • Gr
  • 04-13-14

Epic Tale

Well written historic fiction with wonderfully highly developed characters and a world-class narrator. Courtenay does not shy away from the baser side of the criminal world, but depicts it accurately. I chanced upon this novel while looking for a good read and reading the reviews of others. This book is not for everyone and some do not like it. It is not bright and shiny feel good novel. It is a dark tale depicting human misery and a side of humanity that was prevalent in the early 1900s. The naive and poorly traveled would like to think that such aspects of the human character no longer exist in the world, or that they did not exist within the history of the United States. In the face of evil, the indomitable spirit of a few who struggle to retain their dignity and survive, provides for an outstanding tale.