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Brother Fish

Written by: Bryce Courtenay
Narrated by: Humphrey Bower
Length: 31 hrs and 47 mins
5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the author of The Power of One comes an inspiring human drama and war story of three lives brought together and changed forever by the extraordinary events of recent history. Inspired by real events, Bryce Courtenay's new novel tells the story of three people from vastly differing backgrounds. All they have in common is a tough beginning in life. Jack McKenzie is a harmonica player, soldier, dreamer, and small-time professional fisherman from a tiny island in Bass Strait. Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan is a strong-willed woman hiding from an ambiguous past in Shanghai. Larger than life, Private Jimmy Oldcorn was once a street kid and leader of a New York gang. Together, they reap a vast and not always legitimate fortune from the sea. Narrated by celebrated, award-winning actor Humphrey Bower.
©2013 Christine Courtenay (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty. Ltd

What the critics say

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Literary Fiction

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rebecarol
  • 2008-07-07

Not Just Another Fish Story - something special

I'm ashamed to confess, but I selected this book because it was Looooong and I figured I'd get my money's worth in using a book credit on it. Well, I did get that, in spades!

"Brother Fish" is a superb read -- the characters are memorable, the dialogue superb, the atmosphere excellent and the reader gets an education in everything from the Korean War to crayfishing, Chinese Warlords, and Russian expatriates. The storytelling is terrific, though the book is long it never falters, the author maintains a pace that keeps the reader engaged for well over thirty hours.

The writer also does two things that I don't see writers of any caliber achieve with frequency-- the first is that he is able to depict memorable, likable humans without a counterpoint of extreme villainy. The unsavory characters who people this book are, much of the time, given redemptive interactions. I believe it is much harder to create fully realized, truthful characters and keep them interesting without seeding the novel with intriguing villains as counterbalance. What this author has done is seed the novel with intriguing heroic characters. I think he forsook the cheap but heady thrills a great villain can bring to the table for a larger, more truthful look at the human experience and this only heightens the book's success.

Also, the writer creates interesting and authentic male and female characters -- major and minor, and the main female character is no less compelling or heroic than the males, also a treat!

I have one minor quibble with the wrap up of a romance in the end -- but I hate to even mention it because it is only that, a quibble. "Brother Fish" is an extraordinary read, Bravo to the author for gifting us with this novel!

69 of 70 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mimi Routh
  • 2009-02-13

And a Cast of Thousands!

First of all, the narrator is a real artist, replicating all the voices and singing several songs. He can sound like Paul Robeson, a Russian countess, ordinary Australian blokes, ordinary Americans, Orientals of both sexes and every class from royalty to gangsters, and on and on. For long periods, he doesn't forget that he is one of the secondary characters telling a story. This performance is transparent and seamless.

The events of the book will take you from an island off Australia, to the Korean War, all over the Far East, and to rougher parts of the United States. Courtenay's outlook is global. If you can get through all the mud and blood of the Korean War, including serious wounds and a long time of miserable imprisonment, you will be rewarded with exotic locales and ultimate love and fulfilment. There's never a dull moment. Courtenay knows about race relations. In this story, a white Aussie soldier and a black American soldier become fast friends. They go into business together along with a most mysterious and wonderful older woman. While there are bad characters and bad things do happen, Courtenay is essentially optimistic. Even in prisoner of war camp, there are angels. The book is about brotherly love, excellence, intelligence, business sense. I feel like I know these people; if I could just buy the plane ticket, I could go see them. As my own immediate previous life was as a banker's daughter in China in the early 1900's, I could see, feel and smell the Shanghai and Hong Kong scenarios. The banker's daughter had to support younger siblings however she could. . . . Excellence is sexy; fluency in several languages is sexy; silk cheongsams and exotic cooking are very sexy. Ditto working hard and making lots of money, helping others, improving government policy, loving one another. Courtenay's book is inspiring and entertaining. It has a good balance of colorful description and fast action. It ties up all the tag ends of plot and ends well.

66 of 68 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • AudioAddict
  • 2016-01-27

Good but PAINFULLY long

STORY (fiction) - Brother Fish is almost 32 hours long. I would have rated it five stars had it been perhaps 12 hours. Maybe it's just me, but I find very few books worth a 32-hour investment. This book is character-driven and very well done. There are three main characters. Each one is likeable, richly portrayed and tells a detailed story of his/her difficult past. Jimmy is from the streets of New York. Jack is a poor fisherman's son, who grew up on a small Australian island. Nicole was born in Russia, then forced into surviving the dangerous streets of Shanghai. The characters' lives are partially intertwined because Nicole teaches Jack in school, then years later Jack meets Jimmy in a prisoner-of-war camp. Finally, the three work together as partners in a fish exporting business.

The book jumps between flashbacks and present day experiences and blends together well. A very large portion of the first part of the book is about Jimmy and Jack in the war and prison camps. There is lots of battles and suffering, with bits of Australian history and facts about the war with Korea. Then the book moves to Jimmy's early life as a gang member in New York and on a German tomato farm. Finally Nicole tells her story about her life as a young girl living in the Chinese underworld. Hers was by far my favorite. Wow, I would LOVE a book just about her! Throughout the book there were parts I enjoyed immensely, then other parts where I sped the listening speed to 2X just to get through. Much of the story is from Jack's perspective, so the narrator mainly speaks with an Australian accent and uses lots of Australian slang. As a listener from Texas (USA), I was able to understand the story completely, but there were many phrases which were unfamiliar to me.

PERFORMANCE - ABSOUTELY AWESOME! Performances like this make me wonder why I ever give five stars to others. Mr. Bower not only gives the characters their own distinct accent, but they have their own voice as well. There's Australian, German, Negro, Chinese, Irish, males, females, even singing. Just WOW!

OVERALL - This book is good, but I'd recommend only for people who are patient and willing to wait for a story to develop. I am NOT that patient. While this book is good, I was often frustrated and thought about giving up. I'm glad I didn't because the last ten hours were my favorite. While the F-word occurs occasionally, there is no actual sex during the book. There is quite a bit of violence, so I wouldn't recommend for younger listeners.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Thomas Andrews
  • 2006-05-17

Rave Review

Having read Power of One a couple of years ago I was already a fan of Courtenay. I was impressed with the reviews for this narrator. Now, having listened to the whole thing, I am an even bigger fan of Courtenay, and a huge fan of Humphrey. After something in the vicinity of 300 hours of listening to audible books his narration was the best I have heard, bar none. That is saying something because I think Frederick Davidson (Dickens & Tolstoy) is terrific. But no one has shown the capacity to get into different national characters and dialects as has Humphrey. As for the novel itself, I appreciated the history and the insights into the Korean War, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia of the period. I think that Courtenay is a great story teller. I did not find the characters shallow nor the book tedious. Quite the contrary. The book made me go on to other Courtenay/Humphrey collaborations. See Tandia.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Stephanie
  • 2008-12-03

Brother Fish

This is by far THE BEST audio book I have experienced. I adore Bryce Courtney and the person who narrates is magnificent in all of his narrations I have listend to so far. I laughed, I cried and I want to listen to it all again. You can not go wrong with this one.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • 2008-01-29

ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING

This was BC at his best. I never wanted this book to end. It was an incredible story rich with Korean War detail.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • 2007-10-11

Blimey Great book mate

Like I said this is a really good book. I loved it all the way through. His description of the Korean war was detailed and seemed plausible. It is "the forgotten conflict" as we stereotypically call it these days. I am glad that Bryce Courtanay commemorated it with this good, good story. Also the inner story about Nicole Jordan's tribulations as a White Russian inside of Shanghai after the Bolshevik revolution would have made a good novel on its own. As far as the narrator is concerned; where did they find that bloke? He is really great. He had me thinking in an Australian accent for days, while I was consumed by this story. I also loved his 6'9" African American accent also. The narrator did a really good job. Outstanding literature!

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 2006-01-19

Good story, but a little slow

I enjoyed this book, The story is interesting and the narrator (the first I have ever listened to with an Australian accent) Was perfect. The constant discussion of other peoples 'Prejudice' while having characters that represent every Stereotype imaginable got a little old. But on the whole I enjoyed this book.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Kathy
  • 2017-08-22

all about killing and torture and war

What disappointed you about Brother Fish?

not so much character development and plot as description of war and torture. Not for me. I love Bruce Courtenay so much I listened for almost 7 hours. I stopped at non-stop descriptions of torture. On to my next Courtenay.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • S Jones
  • 2008-02-01

Captivating

An all round well written and read book. Nice detail of historical events and locations. I enjoyed the reading - enough accents without the overblown hard to understand nuances many readers bring. I did not want it to end. Very realistic as in that all the endings of the inner stories did not all turn out the way we might want them to… gave the book a very realistic feel.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful