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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
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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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By karen on 11-30-05

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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172 of 179 people found this review helpful

By Jan on 02-25-12

Powerfully told story... but a warning

A woven tapestry tale with the bawdy, tender, joyous and horrific. He opens the slums of London and the prisioner deportations to Tasmania to our view. You learn history in passing but more important meet characters so complex, that I felt I knew them... almost as friends who shared what they had learned from life. It is a hard book to put down, but does include a great deal of profanity, whores, multiple graphic sexual events and violence. With all the good in it, I still strongly wouldn't recommend for a teen reader or tender spirited soul.

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82 of 86 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Katie on 03-05-09


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

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

By Sarah on 08-01-09

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!!

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Geraldine on 06-05-16


Made me feel like I was back in the 18th century. Totally enthralled could not stop listing, couldn't wait to get to the next in the series. Great story using history 👍

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

By Renuka on 06-01-14

Exceptional Narrator

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

This is the first review I've ever written and I really need to call out what an amazing Narrator Humphrey Bower is. He is truly gifted, his ability to grasp all the accents throughout all 3 books made this great story exceptional.

What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?


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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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