The Potato Factory : Australian Trilogy

  • by Bryce Courtenay
  • Narrated by Humphrey Bower
  • Series: Australian Trilogy
  • 23 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Best audiobook of the year!

If there were an audiobook award for 'best of the year', Bryce Courtney's 'The Potato Factory' would get my vote, hands down. It has everything -- a compelling story, unforgetable characters, a plot with historical authenticity, and a narrator that can't be beat.

Scholars debate how historically accurate 'The Potato Factory' really is -- I personally knew very little about the founding of Australia, from its penal colony days, but in at least one sense, it doesn't matter. The story succeeds brilliantly, even if it were pure fiction. There is likewise debate about whether the book is anti-semitic -- as a Jew, I can't see any tinge of anti-Jewish feeling. Quite the contrary, in many instances. It's hardly a surprise that there were (and are) Jews of less than sterling character. Ikey Solomon, as portrayed by Courtney, is both lovable and dispicable, fully human and utterly fascinating. A man of his time, in a society that was very different from that which we live in today.

Special congratulations should go to Humphrey Bower, the narrator. Through a truly Dickensian cast of characters (including a cameo from the Boz himself!) from street urchins, to upper class Brits, through every element of British and then exiled-society in Van Damiens Land, men and women, adults and children, Bower does a masterful job of portrayal. Each voice is unique, each rings true. There oughta be Academy Awards for acting jobs like this one!

'The Potato Factory' is actually the first book of a trilogy that Courtney calls his gift to Australia. Having just finished listening to this first installment, I'm now on the hunt for the second and third books -- Audible would be doing an amazing service to its listeners if they also provided the next two. Having experienced the first, I can't imagine not wanting to hear the rest of the story as told by Courtney.

Don't miss this classic tale. "The Potato Factory" has it all -- audiobooks just don't get any better than this.
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- karen

Should have believed the cautionary reviews

Once again I have chosen a book that is very well written and perfectly read, but populated with such unappealing characters that I felt like I needed to take a shower after each listening session. The writing is compared to Dickens in several reviews, appropriately so since the main villian (supposed hero) is the real life inspiration for Fagan. In his preface the author warns us that his characters are "odious", but assures us that we will grow to love them. I did not. Did such violence and depravity really exist in that day and time? I'm sure it did. But that doesn't mean I want to be immersed in the muck. Even Dickens gave us some positive characters.

So I will add my caution to previous unhappy reviewers: If you do not enjoy very explicitly graphic sexual (and I don't mean romantic) and violent scenes, and if making heroes of villians is not your cup of tea, then pass on this one. The only reason I am allowing a 3 star rating is in acknowledgement of the author's obvious writing skills, but it does not mean that I enjoyed his "odious" characters. I am just grateful that I did not purchase the next two volumes in the series, because I won't be reading them.
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- Janice "Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-27-2005
  • Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd