Thursday, December 29, 2011

REVIEW: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Synopsis (from Amazon): In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams–which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.

My thoughts:  Let me start the telling of how extraordinary this book is with this: My copy of The Power of One was a mass market paperback with 540 pages of microscopic print.  I read this book in a day and a half.  The Power of One follows Peekay from a six year old boy to young adulthood.  As a child he endures horrific treatment at the hands of his fellow classmates.  His crime?  Being of English descent.  Peekay starts his journey as an innocent but soon realizes that there are greater things in play-the hatred between the Afrikaners and the English, the war in Europe with Hitler and the influence it has on his world,  and the racial tensions and the beginning of apartheid.  Even though the odds are stacked against Peekay (being small, from the "wrong" race and poor) he meets a series of people in his life who serve as mentors and teach him that one person can make a difference.  Among these mentors are Hoppie Groenwald a train guard who teaches Peekay to think first with his head and then with his heart, Geel Piet-a black prisoner who gives Peekay his boxing skills and Doc-a German professor who becomes his closest friend. 

I loved following Peekay from his trials at boarding school to his home with his grandfather and uber religious mother, through his adventures with Doc and his time spent at the prison, his boxing successes and adventures at an exclusive boarding school for rich kids.  No matter what Peekay faces he never loses sight of his goal to become welterweight champion of the world and to make a difference.  Now, part of this book does have to deal with boxing and that was tough for me because next to shuffleboard I think boxing is the most boring sport there is.  This book is so well written though that even the boxing parts were interesting.  This book also has a good deal of sadness and even though Peekay was my favorite character some of the other characters really touched me.  I've only given a very brief description of some of the territory this book covers.  Reading this book felt magical.  The ending was not what I expected but I think it was fitting.  This is definitely one of the best books I've read this year and one of the ones I will be encouraging anyone and everyone to read.  Seriously my little review here cannot do it justice.  Just go read it-you'll love it!

 This book is from my own personal library.


  1. The book was new to me and I enjoyed your post. I will be looking out for this one.

  2. I read this book many years ago now and loved it. From memory I enjoyed the sequel, Tandia, too. I have read a few other Bryce Courtney books over the years but I think this is still my favourite.