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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

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
    143
  • 1 Stars
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Performance

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    174
  • 2 Stars
    48
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Story

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I am certainly happy that I had the pleasure of reading the Power of One and then Tandia. The Potato Factory was highly recommended by many Audible reviewer's and by a close friend who also is a lover of books by Bruce Courtenay. My biggest problem was the fact that except for one character, for the most part the main characters were horrible people for whom you could not have much sympathy. Try as I might I simply could not give myself any reason to care about what was happening to them. I admit that the last quarter of the book was somewhat better in that regard. Also, the storyline and different significant events were so completely implausible that it was difficult to get involved. The minor stories and little anecdotes or sometimes quite interesting, but a number of them had nothing to do with the central storyline . This was certainly not the case with the earlier books. just as in the earlier books, the narrator was incredibly good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Suffered through

How could the performance have been better?

A different book.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Potato Factory?

The first 16 Chapters

Any additional comments?

Really enjoyed “The Persimmon Tree” but this was not good….. I’m at a loss… I was hoping it would contain more of the Australian wit seen in “The Persimmon Tree”.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

REALLY AWFUL REAL PEOPLE TRIUMPH IN THE END!

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 05-16-13

A very good first book

For me this read like exactly what it is--a first book by a very talented writer. It seemed to me that Courtenay loved his material--the historical character at the center of his novel and the extraordinary age of Dickens, so colorful that only a florid and artfully circumlocuted literary style could manage to describe it. On the other hand, he never really took control of his story the way Dickens would have. The plot wanders, held hostage perhaps by the historical record which inspired it, and we wait overlong for story lines to converge and come to a head. As a result, I became impatient at times, not because the book was long but because it was diffuse.

Along the way, however, the author delivers several wonderful, tightly constructed episodes which could hardly be improved upon for building tension and powerful effect. Mary's sea voyage as a convict, her one woman mission to find her lost son in the wilderness, and Ikey's escape from the authorities were all riveting and a joy to listen to. And Courtenay's evocation of the period and its own particular glories and cruelties is, by turns, delightful, chilling and enraging. It would be difficult to read this book without having a strong emotional response.

Humphrey Bower's voice is simply gorgeous, (as an actor I am jealous) and he creates marvelous characters with it. He does clearly miss the occasional inflection, delivering a meaning contrary to the text in some minor way, and his unaccountable pronunciation of "boatswain" with all the letters present and accounted for was jarring, but seeing him listed as narrator for another book would make it more likely that I would buy it.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DCinMI
  • Fairview, MI
  • 03-19-13

A Tribute To Charles Dickens?

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.


2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ben
  • Coquitlam, BC, Canada
  • 02-11-13

FABULOUS BOOK!

This was a new author for me. The title didn't exactly grab me, but the reviews were amazing, and this audible was on sale at the time.
I'm so glad I purchased this. Even if it wasn't on sale, it would have been worth every penny of my credit.
First off, the narrator was beyond fabulous. I have only ever heard a narrator this good before (imho) and that was the narrator for The Game of Thrones audibles.
I think this is one that needs to be listened to vs read.
Bryce Courtenay really researches his novels. It shows. This is a three part series, of which I listened to all three . I thoroughly enjoyed book one and book three, but I felt book two in the series was a little boring,(esp compared to one and three) but that is just personal preference, as in all things!
Worthwhile. Bryce Courtenay is a brilliant storyteller, and Humphrey Bower is as brilliant in his part as a reader / actor!! Can't go wrong with this duo!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • MEMcL
  • Carlsbad, CA
  • 05-06-12

I love this author's books!

Any additional comments?

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I Love It When A Book Is Surprisingly Good!

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good Story

Very raw, realistic account of life (or as it REALLY might have been). Good narration. Definately worth listening to.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • April
  • Phoenixvile, PA, United States
  • 08-26-07

Great Historical Fiction!

I found myself immediatly attached to the characters and on-edge about their well-being!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • dickieL
  • 10-13-16

Another fantastic audio book from Bryce Courtenay.

Great story once again with remarkable characters and very well narrated by Humphrey Bower. Brilliant!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • William
  • 06-19-16

A Master of Story Telling

A wonderful book, masterful told.

A ripping yarn. I loved the insights into early 19th Century London. As an Aussie living in London for almost 20 years, I can understand the true intent of the word ,crepuscular that Courtenay uses to describe life in that time.
The very vivid descriptions of man's inhumanity to man is quite disturbing but real and powerful and puts life into perspective. These many sections are cleverly balanced with some very funny scenes. Sperm Whale Sally is literally larger than life and the arm wrestling part is so so funny.

Non of the impact would happen without the outstanding narration of Humphrey Bower. He deserves every accolade he gets. How he seamlessly moves from character to charter is a marvel.

A great listen

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dougie
  • 05-17-16

Another masterpiece <br />

superb. Can't wait to hear the 2nd book. Thank-you bryce Courteney for your brilliant story telling.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Debbie Bram
  • 05-04-16

Brilliant in every way

What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

Excellent storyline, plot, outcome, research, and of course the way it was bought to life by Humphrey Bower, a master narrator.

What does Humphrey Bower bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Understanding, clarity, a sense of being right there.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Resilience, love, acceptance.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • gemma
  • 03-09-16

gr8

thank u bryce. u r one in a million n yr book was wonderful. cheers

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mette
  • 09-23-15

A great book

Loved the story. Good narrator.. interesting history written well and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-09-15

GOOD READ

Took a while to get into the story but perseverance paid off. At one point was wandering what the point of the story was but it all comes together eventually. Quite sad in places and the treatment of children and the Aboriginal people and the hypocrisy of the Church can be quite depressing. b But would recommend it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Louise K.
  • 06-04-15

Fabulous, moving and Real

Fantastic book better listened to than read because of the fabulous narrator who brings it to life with accurate accents and creative voices for each character. absolutely loved it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lindsey
  • 02-25-15

Wonderful characterisation

Yet again BC wrote a novel that fully transports the reader to the setting...be it rather brutal in a number of places.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • J.W.GRAVES
  • 04-01-14

Good historical novel with plenty of twists

What did you like most about The Potato Factory?

The Potato Factory covers the period of English history when villains were readily hanged or transported to the new world of Australia or Tasmania (Van Demons Land).

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ikey, the main character is the rouge on whom Fagin could have been based, he ran a gang of young boys teaching them all the tricks they would need for a life of crime, and making profit from them at the same time, but he had his fingers in many pies, fencing and forging of bank notes, this later was his downfall

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The scramble to avoid arrest by the Bank of England officers by removing the high value printing plates from where the press is kept and as much of value that he can hide elsewhere.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • johnsee
  • 09-08-15

reason for reading

most intriguing series I have had great pleasure in reading very much to be recommended

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Valmai
  • 08-27-15

a great read.

Great story with historical detail that tells the early australian story and depicts the hardship that the people faced

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • 08-15-15

This story took over my life until I was finished, it was so good

The story kept me engaged from the first chapter and the narration was really well done.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Janice
  • 10-27-14

Potato Factory

After attempting to read this book on many occasions (I have read every other book but this series) and not getting "into it" I decided to download the audible version. WOW!!!
What a great adventure. Can't wait to get my ears around Tommo & Hawk, next book of the series.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful