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The Potato Factory Audiobook

The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1

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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.

©1995 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2000 Bolinda Publishing Pyt Ltd by arrangement with Penguin Group (Australia)

What the Critics Say

"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 Rating

4.4 (4809 )
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  •  
    Kelly Colorado Springs 09-29-13
    Kelly Colorado Springs 09-29-13

    Reading allows me to travel through time; to visit the world's unique and stunning places. To become somebody I am not... It is glorious.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautiful narration and story."
    Where does The Potato Factory rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is the perfect book to choose when looking for your next audio book. The narration is rich and complex and full of nuance. Mr. Bower deftly handles multiple characters and accents. Through his voice we come to know the less than perfect characters Mr. Courtenay illustrates. And we forgive them for those faults and flaws because we fall in love with them.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I cannot pick a favorite scene, but most of them involve Mary Abacus. Her tenaciousness is something that I hope to teach my daughter. Her fierce and ferocious love of her boys is how I hope others see me and my love of my children. Her intelligence makes me respect her. I find her fascinating and I overlook all of her misdeeds because I like her so much. This is something Mr Courtenay does extremely well. His treatment of Ikey Solomon is equally nimble. While he is often a despicable human being the listener will find him complicated, a bit repulsive and still appealing. In fact, by the book's end I had forgiven Ikey for all his crimes.


    Any additional comments?

    I cannot speak to the accuracy of the history in this book. My opinion is that most historical fiction is aptly named. I often learn from it, but do not rely upon the novels for the learning. Instead I allow them to lead me in my learning and I follow the novel to the primary source materials. Whether the history is accurate here may not matter -- the story is too good to pass. Read it for the stories. Read it because it is enjoyable. Then if you want to learn more of Australia's history, research it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Hanceville, AL, United States 09-23-13
    Lisa Hanceville, AL, United States 09-23-13

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Don't Expect A Fairytale"
    Any additional comments?

    This book had all the things I look for in a book that I would give a higher than normal rating to. The characters are "real" and what I mean by that is that they don't have a definitive role. Sometimes you despise a certain character and then they do something and your heart breaks for them or you see a kinder gentler side of someone who has been cruel or mean and you begin to understand why they are the way they are. Courtenay shows you the absolute cruelty that some humans are capable of and then will show you a character that has a heart of gold. I enjoyed the colorful side characters that you become totally wrapped up in as well. Sperm Whale Sally was incredibly fun. The narrator was also fantastic which always makes a book so much more enjoyable.<br/><br/>To be sure this book is not for the faint of heart some of the characters are able to overcome the most desperate of circumstances and some are bound to be forever trapped by them. There is sadness, heartbreak, cruelty and hard times, but there is also great love and kindness shown by the characters. I love it when an author can make me love and understand a villain and make sure to show that a hard life is just that, hard, and rarely do people escape from those circumstances.<br/><br/>

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MM 08-28-13
    MM 08-28-13

    mom

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    "Not your typical historical fiction"
    Any additional comments?

    Kind of slow at first, and the ending was way too abrupt, but 98% of this story kept me interested and entertained. Fascinating characters, exceptionally well developed and intricate plot, and an engaging narrator. The only downside was that it was impossible to know what was historically-based and what was complete fiction. <br/><br/>A fascinating account of the settlement of the Australian continent by convicts from England, including wonderful stories of the seediness of Charles Dickens' London. The main character was the real-life inspiration for Fagin in Oliver Twist.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Unni M. Berg Bahamas 08-24-13
    Unni M. Berg Bahamas 08-24-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Amazing work by an extremely skillful author"

    I've just finished book one, and I loved it. I'm in awe at what the author has created here. The descriptions are so lively, the setting so real, it feels like being present. Also the insight into the human nature, both good and bad that the author so skillfully is presenting to us is fascinating. The narrator did an awesome job too. I can't wait to start listening to book 2 and 3, and feel lucky that I didn't have to wait for them...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary 08-14-13
    Mary 08-14-13 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself! I LOVE TO READ AND BE IN THE KNOW. I LIKE TO TALK TO INTELLIGENT PEOPLE.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Historical approach with feminist exploited evils"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would highly recommend this audiobook to others.It shows a female who suffers insufferable vulgarity, the cause and extent of traits of men during this era. It shows the social powers of people at different economic ability. Its historical events in the story is lesson learned. Its an interesting story. I drove to Texas from North Carolina listening to this book. My trip did not seem like 21 hours of driving one way. But this story took me there!!!


    What other book might you compare The Potato Factory to and why?

    Books by Ken Follett are comparable.


    What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?

    Bower can tell a story. He can tell a story throwing his voice from male to female.


    If you could rename The Potato Factory, what would you call it?

    I do not know


    Any additional comments?

    No, I truly enjoyed the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Quilt Crazy 08-13-13
    Quilt Crazy 08-13-13 Member Since 2017
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    "It must be me."

    I couldn't get half way through the first book of this series before I quit. I must be the only one who had this problem, but I couldn't find a person in this that I was really anxious to like. The great reviews it has are all probably the real thing. I just think that it is my own personality at war with this book. I really wanted to like it, too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melanie Raleigh, NC 08-02-13
    Melanie Raleigh, NC 08-02-13
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    "A real gem and a pleasant surprise"
    Any additional comments?

    I was looking for a different type of book as I usually go for authors I'm familiar with who have a formula. I'm really glad I took a chance on this book. It's a work of historical fiction loosely based on the true story of Ikey Soloman who supposedly Charles Dickens modeled his Fagin character after. I've only just finished this first installment and loved it. I definitely plan on reading parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy.<br/><br/>First, the author's narration was excellent. He could do a number of different dialects from a posh British accent, to various British regional dialects. His narration helped create the wonderful richness within the characters of the book.<br/><br/>The strength of the book itself are the characters who are both strong and deeply flawed. This is a novel that takes place over numerous years and over many continents. The characters' lives are intertwined and full of ebbs and flows, ups and downs. If you like books with richness of characters whose lives you follow over time, then this is the book for you. I fully recommend it - you won't be disappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Whytock JOSHUA TREE, CA, US 07-27-13
    John Whytock JOSHUA TREE, CA, US 07-27-13 Listener Since 2008
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    "P.C. Dickens - sans endearments"
    Would you try another book from Bryce Courtenay and/or Humphrey Bower?

    No, I would not try another book by this author. The reader was adequate. Each character was despicable, including the children. I couldn't have cared less about them in the end. The author couldn't resist putting his political and spiritual perspective into the narrative instead of simply telling the story. He managed to offend me by his unfortunate stereotyping of most of the Christian institutions and characters, saving the Quakers. I don't question the authenticity of his research (mostly), only the moral conclusions and judgments regarding the economic, political and spiritual environments of the times that he felt compelled to impart to the listener through use of sarcasm and ridicule. Just tell the story, Bryce and let me draw my own conclusions.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne 07-26-13
    Suzanne 07-26-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Long story, but I can't wait for the next one!"

    It was fascinating. I really enjoyed all of it. Tension, history about things I didn't know much about, and lots more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen 07-25-13
    Karen 07-25-13

    Have Books Will Travel

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    "So very dark"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This looked like it would be wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed the author's introduction, but this book is so very, very dark, I just can't get through it. The main characters have so few redeeming characteristics, that I can't sympathize with them at all.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • Katie
    Ormskirk, Lancashire, United Kingdom
    3/5/09
    Overall
    "Fab!"

    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

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    Grange-over-Sands, United Kingdom
    8/1/09
    Overall
    "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!!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Jinty
    Wiltshire
    12/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Always leave a little Salt on the Bread !!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Potato Factory the most enjoyable?

    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 ....


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

    without a doubt " My Dear !" it is most definately.... Ikey Solomon..


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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 !"


    Any additional comments?

    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!!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • KIM
    Bognor Regis, United Kingdom
    3/31/12
    Overall
    "Great Tale!"

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Kim
    Liestal, Switzerland
    3/28/12
    Overall
    "Absolutely brilliant"

    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?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • DARREN
    2/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent"

    Very good story, can not wait for the next in the series. Well read by the narrator. I would recommend.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Anonymous
    2/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mischievously capturing, my dear"

    Wonderful, funny, adoring and extremely well narrated.
    Some of the best character descriptions ever. Can warmly recommend this one! Gr

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • WCE
    1/27/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • richard
    11/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dickins meets EJ thompson"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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 ....


    What other book might you compare The Potato Factory to, and why?

    Well obviously Oliver Twist.... much better and accurate personalisation of Ike rather that the politically satirically Fagin however


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

    Learning a lot about Australian History.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    In the depths of human depravity , humanity still wins through.<br/>Immensely enjoyable novel with superb narration painting a very powerful picture of Australian history...


    Any additional comments?

    Will definitely be listening to the next two books in the trilogy

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alicia
    10/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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