“Be This A Warning!
This little work is help up as a warning beacon to keep the traveller from the sands of a poisonous desert,or from splitting upon the rocks of infamy.
It is necessary in such a case to point out ‘hells’ and brothels,girls and bawds,and rogues,by name and situation,not as a direction for youth to steer towards them,but that he may take the contrary course – for no reasonable man would enter a whirlpool,when he could pass by it on a smooth surface o’ the reaches of a tranquil river crossing.
‘We are duty bound to hold him up as a depraved villain,whose conduct must disgust,and whose miseries,with all his wealth,will show how preferable a life of honesty and poverty is to a guilty conscience,and treasure gained by blood and rapine.
From: Ikey Solomon,Swindler,Forger,Fencer & Brothel Keeper 1829″
This is the opener Bryce Courtenay decided to start this massive novel with,it is also the reason I own this book now.
*First off let me apologise for the condition of the book,it was given to me by a mate of mine mother who was going to donate all her old literature – me being me I was given the opportunity to have look before all of it headed out,so yes,it is falling apart but its okay.*
Back to the book.
So as we all know London is known for its massive historical cluster fuck concerning Australia,back in the day they decided it was a good idea to send all their criminals (some were seen as criminals for stealing a piece of bread-shows you)to some random little island in the middle of no where,back then it probably seemed plausible. This book is dark,it’s filthy,reading it had me feeling rough as fuck;wearing some dingy trench coat and a black pants and some weird English hat. I love it when words can do that to me.
This novel surrounds the story of a one Mr.Isaac (Ikey) Solomon-one of London’s most famous fences,Ikey is married to Hannah Solomon,a harsh and cruel woman who owns a brothel-oh,and she despises Ikey. As the years go buy Ikey has locked away the most prized possessions he has fenced and hid them in a safe i his floor board,to keep his wife from robbing him he gave her the power to select half of the safes password thus ensuring she can’t open it without his presence.
As the novel unfolds Courtenay introduces a one Mary Abacus,a gentle soul forced to be as harsh as can be due men deforming her hands (I’m not telling you why,how what what) . Fate brings Ikey and Mary together and they form a special kind of bond-this does not go down well back at home,Hannah devises a plan to get rid of poor old Mary and has her deported to Australia.
BUT..a big but-they all end up on that far away island where Mary has started a little moonshine gig disguised as a vegetable garden,hence the name The Potato Factory,she has also started teaching the local kids who were born in the prison at the orphanage,meanwhile Ikey barely makes it out of his incarceration and ends up a drunkard with no more money and no way of going back to London with Hannah to retrieve all his riches.
This is where I stop all the give aways..the novel ends in one great big mind fuck,a jaw dropper and a tear plucker,Bryce truly made this novel come to life with characters that FEEL real,they take you on a real life journey through heartache,terror,elation and hope;plucking on your heart strings and tugging on that area in your throat that cramps before you shed a tear..
I truly loved this book. No fancy ending.
It was brilliant.