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The Potato Factory (The Potato Factory #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  7,491 Ratings  ·  488 Reviews
Ikey Solomon is very successful indeed, in the art of thieving. 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 19th century London to Van Diemens Land. In the backstreets and dives of Hobart Town, Mary learns the art of brewing and builds The Potato Factory, where ...more
Paperback, 852 pages
Published August 31st 1998 by Penguin Books Australia Ltd. (first published 1995)
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Amanda Yes. It's a trilogy with the other books being, respectively: Tommo and Hawk, Solomon's Song

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Marissa
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy hell! This is one damn good book. Bryce Courtenay still amazes me in his level of research comparable to only authors such as Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte. It deals with the populating of the British colonies in Australia, Tasmaina, and New Zealand. While the accuracy of detail is impeccable, his skill as a storyteller is what keeps me hooked on ordering his books from Australia. Good God, I hope this man lives forever and keeps writing! Thank goodness that it is one book in a series of 3. ...more
Richard Philbrick
I "read" this as a download from Audible.com. Humphrey Bower is an exceptional narrator effortlessly giving each character their own distinct voice. I was enthralled with Courtenay's writing and Bower's narration. I don't know if I'd give it five stars as a print book or not, but I recommend it as an audible book to anyone.
Velvetink
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
M.j. Croan
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘The Potato Factory’ by Bryce Courtnay.

This excellent novel sat on my bookshelf for some months before I finally got around to reading it. I am not sure why, perhaps it was the title that did not strike the right cords. I even picked it up a couple of times, but dismissed it. What an oversight that was.
'The Potato Factory' is a journey back in time to Dickensian London and all the filth and squalor that inspired Charles Dickens to pen his many novels, and in particular ‘Oliver Twist’.
Although wr
...more
Erika
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First - I loved this book. After starting it on vacation (it was the only book at the rental home on the beach where we were) I had to find the others in this series.
The storyline was so fascinating to me as a look into the lives of the poor and downtrodden - prisoners sent from Britain to Australia. Because of the people involved the language is very course and I wouldn't recommend it to people who are offended by such. I don't believe it is filthy for the sake of filth, but if this were a mov
...more
Teresa
Dec 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Bryce Courtenay, Australian history
I'm a bit undecided with The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay.

Yes, there's no doubt that Bryce Courtenay is a great writer. He has the ability to make you believe that you are experiencing the same things with the characters whether its in the streets of 19th century London or the colonial outpost that was Van Damien Island and even projecting sympathy towards the lowest scums of English society. Also, the way he sets up the background of the story is nothing short of perfect, you know each de
...more
Blaine DeSantis
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! This is now the 3rd book I have read by the author and I plan to read more. The first I had read was "The Power of One" which is a truly marvelous book, after that I read "The Persimmon Tree" which was a slow and plodding disappointment to me. And so I came to this book on my Kindle and had no idea what to expect. What I got was a book that held my rapt attention, a book that was a super fast and interesting read, a book that includes two characters that also appear in Charles D ...more
Alena
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a few months to get through this audiobook and every now and again I had to stop listening because it was just too much: the violence, the poverty, the lack of compassion. Yet I would always pick it up again, keen to find out what happens next, because throughout the story there is a glimmer of hope in its characters' grit, their will to survive and find peace, however short lived. Bryce Courtenay is an impressive storyteller who is sometimes ruthless to his readers while describing t ...more
Jan
This is the first in the Australian trilogy:
1.The Potato Factory
2.Tommo & Hawk
3.Solomon's Song

I was hooked after the first chapter!

Bryce Courtenay is noted for his ability to weave dramatic, graphic, human stories with historic fact. He did not disappoint with this book. I could not put it down. We meet Ikey, Hannah and Mary in 1820's England.. "dark times, bleak times, hard times". They survive in the under belly of English society. Their lives and their stories are woven together..Deemed c
...more
Charles
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has the quality of a folk legend re-imagined. The characters loom larger than life and protagonists endure years of the worst kinds of suffering before triumphing over their oppressors. The first half of this novel, set in nineteenth century London, is slowly-paced, but packed with eccentric, Dickensian characters, complete with dialect. The very eventful second half takes place mostly in Australia during its penal colony days, as the feud that boils for over 700 pages comes to a head. ...more
Natalie
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the early 19th century, THE POTATO FACTORY explores the lives of London's thieves, con men, prostitutes, street urchins and lowlife who, suffering from England's social and political inequalities, are sent to the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). This Dickensian tale with larger-than-life characters and plenty of pulp is not for the fainthearted as master storyteller Bryce Courtenay spares no sordid or salacious detail. I loved the book but at 852 pages found it to be over ...more
Nadine May
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an altogether roller coaster journey about London during the early and mid 18 hundreds. I knew that 'life' during those times was rather terrible for the lower class of the population, but how vividly 'poverty' is described - in a Charles Dickens style - leave little to the imagination of the reader. The Potato Factory was a very good read and again my admiration for Bryce's detail in describing human misery to its fullest. I never knew that Tasmania was a destination for convicts, I knew a ...more
David
Mar 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listened to on my IPod. Amazing Narration with Humphrey Bower doing many dialects with great skill. The story is about Fagan, the "villain" from Oliver, who is a real life character who Dickens used to tell the story of the young thieves. Much of the story takes place in Australia after his deportment for his crimes.
Jeanene Palmer
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook of 23 hours. Fabulous! This book took the author 20 years to write due to research and accuracy. The story is based on true individuals of Ikey Solomon and Mary Sparrow who were convicts and sent to Australia to serve their sentences. MR. Cannon did a wonderful job telling their stories of street debauchery and Ikey's life of crime and Mary's good nature and tenacity to overcome society's views of criminals and women. The actor who read was superb! This is the first b ...more
Gillian Murrell
This was my first Bryce Courtenay book and if the others are anything like this it will not be my last. The amount of research that must have went into this story is amazing. The story follows the journey of one Ikey Solomon. Ikey's journey starts in England and eventually ends in Tasmania. Along the way we meet many loveable character and some we love to hate mainly Ikey's wife Hannah. Mary Abacus as she is come to be know, due to her use of the abacus is a stand out character throughout the en ...more
Book Hunter
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical fiction about the most notorious criminal in England in the early 1800's and his exile to Australia. It reads to me like a Dickens novel, set in the same time period. I've never actually read any other books that tell the story of how Australia was settled and how the convicts were brought here and treated once they arrived. The first half of the book is wordy, slow and hard to read. And only at the halfway point it gradually accelerates. So I doubt very much whether I’ll pi ...more
Deyanne
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deyanne by: Lisa and Liza
Lately I have been on a Bryce Courtenay reading marathon. After just finishing April Fool's Day I wanted to read more from this author that has touched my life, particularly with his first novel The Power of One. That is definitely "absolutal" on my favorite list.

In the preface to this novel Courtney writes:
"These were dark times, bleak times, hard times, times where a poor man's life was regarded as less valuable than that of a pig, a poor Jew's far less valuable even than that. That Ikey Sol
...more
Mirjana
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
I enjoyed every word of this book,and who ever likes historical novels, will love it.
Australian's are lately so proud of their convict heritage(you can't become Australian now if you have a criminal record!), and most have romantic idea of settlers drinking Billy Tea and singing Waltzing Matilda, sitting around the fire in the bush, but reality of the times 200 years ago is much closer to this book.
Bryce Courtney likes to bring out "dirty laundry" and he does it with such elegance.
Characte
...more
P
Mar 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Because of my passing interest in the antipodes, after I read its description I thought maybe this book would give me some insight into life in Australia during the country's early years, specifically the first half of the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately, I never got to the part where the main characters actually moved to Australia from England. They were so crass and disgusting, it became impossible for me to continue reading about them and their dissolute antics. So I gave it up, after abou
...more
Kris
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love historical fiction. Before I read The Potato Factory I had never heard or Bryce Courtney. He has a way of writing that makes you feel transported back in time. The story of Ikey Solomon and Mary Abacus is brutal, and heartbreaking, however you have to admire the determination and success against all odds. The events of their lives, apart and together, lay a foundation for an unparalleled story you will not be able to put down. I have just started the second of the trilogy (which I did not ...more
Tricia Riley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Valerie P
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another supremely entertaining story by Bryce Courtenay. I read the paperback version as well as listened to the audio book. Humphrey Bower is such a great narrator who brings all of Courtenay's colorful characters to life! This is the first book in a trilogy, chronicling the fictionalized life of Ikey Solomon, set in London and Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania). I'm already on to book 2: Tommo and Hawk and am enjoying this 2nd book
Immensely too.
Amanda Johnston
It just wasn't my cup of tea...
Janine
This book was physically difficult to read with over 600 pages of single line spaced small font. Really interesting story but did get bogged down at times.
Kathleen Hagen
The Potato Factory, by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bower, Produced by Bolinda Publishing, downloaded from audible.com.

This book is the first in a series of three. Bryce Courtenay, in an introduction which he read personally in the audio version, states that it is his tribute to Australia, a country which has given him much. (He was born in South Africa.)

This book is about Ikey Solomon, apparently a real person. He was raised in the poorest streets of London, became a thief, and traine
...more
Trisha
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Goodreads friend from Australia recommended this author to me when I told her I was looking for something by a writer from her country. Another reviewer raved about the audio version narrated by Humphrey Bower,one of those talented actors who makes characters come alive through the different voices and accents he gives them. A good thing too because this novel, the first in a trilogy, is filled with colorful characters which made it a lot of fun to listen to them speak, rather than simply rea ...more
Jill Polsby
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many years ago I read "The Power of One" - Bryce Courtenay's book on South Africa......I never did read the sequal for some reason and I don't think I realized how many historical fiction books he had written. This summer I picked up Power of One again, and just so, so enjoyed it again. Courtenay's style of writing is gentle, informative, involving.....The people seem to be real people, with real histories and they tell the stories of the countries. Went on to read "Tandia", the second book in t ...more
LemonLinda
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a good one to read if interested in the historical perspective of Australia (or rather Van Diemen's/Tasmania) as a destination for prisoners from Great Britain in the early decades of the 19th century. It covers the prison ships as they transport those banished from their home countries and then life as they live out their terms and afterwards.

It is also the fictionaliized story of an infamous criminal, Ikey Solomon and his life of crime. Ikey is believed by many to have been the mo
...more
Jacula
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me by the lady in the next apartment to ours whilst we were holidaying on Crete. We'd struck up a 'Lovely weather again/how's your day been?' relationship whilst sitting on our ground floor balconies reading.

"You won't be able to put it down," she told me.

She was right.

The book is based on Ikey Solomon, the so-called "Prince of Fences" and the basis of the Fagin character in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. It is the first in a three-part series, followed by Tommo &
...more
Jacqui
Memorable Quotes
“...my only desire is to teach the word o' man and leave the word o' Gawd to the pulpit men”

“The rapacious white tribe who were arriving in increasing numbers, not only as convicts but also as settlers, wanted to own everything they touched. They slashed and burned the wilderness so that they might graze their sheep and grow their corn. They erected fences around the land they now called their own and which henceforth they were prepared to defend with muskets and sometimes even
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Touch
  • Walkabout (Outback Sagas)
  • For the Term of His Natural Life
  • Journey from Venice
  • Territory
  • Haussmann, or the Distinction
  • Burden of Desire
  • The Harp in the South
  • Behind the Sun (Convict Girls #1)
  • All The Rivers Run
  • Girt (The Unauthorised History of Australia #1)
  • A Fortunate Life
  • 1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet
  • The Traitors (The Australians, #3)
  • Australians: Origins to Eureka (Australians, #1)
  • The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women
  • Sipping from the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt
  • Heart of the Dreaming
63
I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less
...more
More about Bryce Courtenay...

Other Books in the Series

The Potato Factory (3 books)
  • Tommo and Hawk (The Potato Factory, #2)
  • Solomon's Song (The Potato Factory, #3)
“The rapacious white tribe who were arriving in increasing numbers, not only as convicts but also as settlers, wanted to own everything they touched. They slashed and burned the wilderness so that they might graze their sheep and grow their corn. They erected fences around the land they now called their own and which henceforth they were prepared to defend with muskets and sometimes even their lives. They built church steeples and prison walls and homes of granite hewn from the virgin rock and timber cut from the umbrageous mountain forests. They possessed everything upon the island, the wild beasts that grazed upon its surface, the birds that flew over it, the fish that swam in its rushing river torrents and the barking seals resting in the quiet bays and secluded inlets. Everything they thought worthwhile was attached to the notion of ownership.” 3 likes
“my only desire is to teach the word o' man and leave the word o' Gawd to the pulpit men” 2 likes
More quotes…