Wow! A FANTASTIC story of Ikey Solomon, Prince o' fences! Bryce Courtenay is quick to jump right into the plot, and keeps it going to the end. It was a recommended read from an avid reader, and I would highly recommend this book! 832 pages
Mary Abacus, tenacious, spirited and a woman of independant mind, has arrived in her new land under the most onerous of circumstances. Sometime mistress of the notorious London criminal Ikey Solomon, Mary has been transported to Van Diemen's Land for running a bawdy house. She is soon joined on the convict settlement by Ikey and his wife, Hannah, herself a strong-minded woman, consumed by warring passions, a great love for her children and a loathing for her husband and his mistress. Determined to survive their past and to shape a new future, the two women raise separate families - one legitimate, the other bastard, and both bearing the name of Solomon. Ruled by Ikey's greed, Hannah's hate and Mary's unswerving ambition, the families ride the brink of disaster as each woman sets out to destroy the other.
This was a fantastic homage to Dickens and captivating historical fiction. Most of us know of Australia's penal colony history but this book brings that history to life. The characters are memorable, imperfect and quirky. The story carries you along through the ups, the downs, the twists, the turns, the triumphs and the struggles of these wonderful characters. There are at least two scenes deeply imbedded in my psyche just as the horse beating scene in Crime and Punishment will be with me forever. That means that this book will not soon be forgotten - if ever - and I look forward to the second book in this trilogy.
From Back Cover:
In the dark backstreets of Stepney, Ikey Soloman is the King rat. A notorious criminal, his only fear is that Hannah, his resentful and ambitious wife, will force him to reveal his half of the combination to the safe where their joint wealth is hidden. When Hannah and Mary, Ikey's intelligent and resourceful mistress, are deported to a penal colony to Van Dieman's land, Ikey's determination to get hold of the money leads him, under a false name, to the colony where money leads him, under a false name, to the colony where he too is imprisoned.
Driven by their mutual hatred, Ikey and Hannah survive as beset they can whilst Mary, who has become the owner of "The Potato Factory", makes and sells bootleg liquor. She too has half of the combination to the safe, and when she adopts twin babies, one black, one white, she determines to get the money for herself. But Hannah, and Ikey, have other plans.