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4.6 out of 5 stars84
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 February 2012
The Potato Factory is one of those books you just can't put down, from beginning through to end it had me under it's spell and its a rare book these days that can do that. Focusing on 19th century criminal classes in London, it takes you into a world of sin and debauchery with exquisite detail that can shock, and at times can make you laugh out loud at how their lives were spent interwoven with, and spent avoiding the equally corrupt upper classes. You are then taken to their new lives in the penal colony of Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) and see how the characters pasts stubbornly refuse to be kept back in London but follow them, hindering them in their path to make a fully fresh start.
The characters Bryce Courtney introduces to us are at once horrible, funny, and recognisable, in particular the loveable rogue Ikey Soloman, the ginormous prostitute Sperm Whale Sally, Mary Abacus and assorted other ragamuffins and down and outs. You find yourself transported into their lives, viewing their struggles to cope in a society that very much forgot about the little people, those that hadn't quite made it on to the ladder of respectability in Victorian London. The authors meticulous descriptions of London and the Tasmanian penal colony serves to unravel a new energy in the book, and as the reader senses that it, the book, will undoubtedly end soon due to their arrival in Van Diemens Land, then a wave of satisfaction follows as you remember that this in fact the first part of a trilogy. The work has proved so popular it has been televised in the authors native land Australia.
I can not wait for the TV series to come to the UK, whenever that may be, so I will certainly be buying the other two books as I have become irretrievably involved with Hawk and Mary and Tommo and the Prince of Fences himself, Ikey Soloman. A masterpiece, and a must have for any one who likes thoughtful, humorous, touching historic novels and wants to try something different. This is well worth your money
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on 23 April 2011
An amazing book, best I,ve ever read. If you feel sorry for yourself then read this and thank your lucky stars. What wonderful characters, especilly Icky and Mary.
The description of London in the 1800 is great and the journey to Hobart unbelievable. Thank you for a great read.
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on 17 April 2007
Possibly based on Dickens' Shylock, the twists and turns of the main character are paralleled by those of the plot, which goes from Victorian England to Australia and Tasmania. Anyone who has visited either of these two places will meet the main character in Richmond jail, and will never be able to be dispassionate about our 'moral' punitive system of justice again.

Don't let the length of this book dissuade you, it is obligatory reading for anyone with a social conscience as well as travellers to the Antipodes. Once started it grips you until the end, and it will stay with you long after you have put it down.
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on 20 August 2010
I am totally bemused by the fact that this book is unavailable in most of the book shops I have scoured recently so I could buy a copy for a friend. Courtney is the most wonderful literary genius that many people have yet to discover. It is frustrating to see how much dross gets the undeserved notice of the public when there are wonderful books like this that are relatively undiscovered. This is probably the best book that I have read in a very long time. Courtney has the rare skill of being able to entertain without resorting to gratuitous sex, profanity and violence whilst maintaining an atmosphere of reality. He is a literary unsung hero. A wonderful book that is written with wit, style, imagination and beauty. I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 7 June 2011
A great book, well written and very atmospheric which is a general for Courtenay's novels. I can't wait to read the next in the trilogy
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on 27 April 2014
I love all of Bryce Courtenays books, so apologies if my review if biased! The Potato Factory is another excellent read, the first in a trilogy, which I read straight after each other. Its a fantastic story which spans generations across the trilogy. Some of the writing is quite graphic and you can almost taste some of the scenes (which isn't always good). I would urge everyone to read Bryce Courtenay and The Potato Factory is as good a place to start as any. All I can say is I'll be amazed if you don't want to read everything he's ever written!
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on 5 August 2007
Which is great because I really enjoyed this one. This is a great insight into some of the history of England and Australia. Lots of historical characters are used throughout the book.

I see some readers complaining about the length but I love the descriptive writing of Courtenay. You feel like you can touch Ikey's coat for instance (he loves his coat being a thief and all, and it's got more pockets that a rap star's baggy pants, that's my description by the way, not the authors). And when Ikey walks into an Inn, it feels like a real Inn, you can feel the atmosphere, I love that with Courtenay's writing.

And the ending left some reviewers disappointed (I won't be giving any spoilers), but remember its a trilogy, there is definitely enough content for one book. I probably was at first, I thought that can't be the ending, I just spent 20 hours reading this book and I felt ripped off. But now I know its a trilogy, it makes a lot more sense.
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on 15 August 2010
This was recommended to me by a friend. Not found in the usual bookshops so went to my faithful friend "Amazon". Australian author who has written a number of books including a sequel to this. Well written and enjoyed every minute of this book with its twists and turns. Would definitely recommend Bryce Courtney.
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on 24 February 2010
This book is typical Courtenay, building a picture is a skill that no other author has bettered in my opinion.
This is a story of how a poor irish 3rd generation imigrant family survives the post war years in a small Australian town.
They are strong and support each other as a family including working together. they have a drunk as a father who has been destroyed by the war and interned by the Japanese. ( you can let your imagination run wild thinking what kind of treatment he endured) This is the kind of book you would enjoy if you had absolutely nothing else to do because, once started, you just have to keep reading to find out how this family, consisting of an overwieght, vocal and fiercely protective mother towards her three boys and two daughters, a partialy crippled drunken father struggleing to exist and better themselves in this hard unforgiving enviroment. This book is a definite must read.
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on 7 July 2009
This book is quite long - could really be two books but Bryce Courtney is such a story teller! You really get an indepth feel to all the characters and could imagine the life they were living at the time. I haven't read many of the authors other books (they seem to have good reviews so will be doing so in the future) but I would recommend this - it is a great story!!
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