The Power of One

ISBN: 034541005X
ISBN 13: 9780345410054
By: Bryce Courtenay

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Bookclub Classics Coming Of Age Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Literature Novels To Read

About this book

No stranger to the injustice of racial hatred, five-year-old Peekay learns the hard way the first secret of survival and self-preservation - the power of one. An encounter with amateur boxer Hoppie Groenewald inspires in Peekay a fiery ambition - to be welterweight champion of the world.

Reader's Thoughts

Caleb Rogers

** spoiler alert ** Power of One starts off disgustingly. The first chapter contains mostly shitting and pissing, and even better, people getting shit and pissed on. I'm sure an AP english teacher would say this represents something quite shitty, such as how shitty Africa is, but I just know the author was fighting through some strange fetishes at the time of writing Power of One. It's the only plausible explanation. After a final awesome scene wherein the main character's bald old chicken takes a big dump in a bully's mouth (clearly representative of the author's secret self loathing of never doing anything about being picked on in school and always depending on others to help him, i.e., bald chickens), the main character runs off to get some shoes or suckers or something and gets on a train, does some growing up and plans his life around a single boxing match, and meets a really fat chick. Seriously, this chick was fat. So fat she couldn't even stand up when she fell over in a drunken stupor. So fat that she didn't even bother trying once she was on the ground and instead decided to die after eating three chickens and a chocolate cake. Another fetish of the author's is revealed, in the form of BBW. More growing up happens, and the story turns into a smart kid being smarter than everybody else around him and beating people up who pick on him. He cries a bit about being forced to be a winner, how horrible it is to always be winning and be a god of Africa and to have everybody love him more than their own mothers, and how he's still too good to take a loan to go to Oxford. Then he beats up the bully from the beginning again. Oh, also, the bully was a nazi. Bryce Courtenay must have once dreamt of being a little kid kick'n the nazi's asses.Took me a long time to read this one, for some reason. Never really devoted an afternoon to it, which made it nice and stretched out. An overall good book, I would suggest it to others, it really is quite funny, and meaningful, and whatnot. I'm sure somebody more learned could find some meaningful lesson in it.

Karen Klink

I don't usually review a book unless there is something about it that grips me more than usual. This one had a lot going for it, in spite of the information that repeated two or three times, which should never have got past the editor and likely would not have these days.The ending nearly spoiled the entire story for me. The story and the boy, had one major goal that he was determined to reach for the entire novel, one that was repeated throughout no matter what happened to him. I would make a great deal of sense to me if, once a character changed and grew into something more than he had been in the beginning, that goal would finally change into something perhaps more worthwhile. That did not happen here. Not only was the goal never reached in the book, but the author turned the ending to one of merely revenge and violence--a horrible beating of the character (now an adult) who had bullied our protagonist when he was a child. That is where the so-called Power of One is supposed to triumph? This was the most disappointing ending I have ever read.

Arah-Lynda

This is the story of Peekay, a frail, young, English boy growing up poor in South Africa and of his refusal to be demoralized by the racial torment surrounding him. On the road to becoming a young man he cultivates some uniquely, diverse friends and discovers many truths, not the least of which, are that loyalty, strength, love and compassion, coupled with a insatiable, thirst for knowledge and armed with the focus and courage to stay true to one's own self, can all be fused together, thus harnessing a power so potent that any worthy goal can and will be achieved. For me the message that rings out loudest and clearest in this story is how ridiculous racial hatred truly is.

Stupac

** spoiler alert ** Of all the books I've read (with the exception of the Bible) this book has perhaps become most deeply engrained in my soul. I know that probably sounds rather trite, but I believe it to be so. Certainly I read it at the right time, as an impressionable freshman in high school. Despite our many differences, I found it easy to relate to the young english boy, Peekay, so out of place in WWII era South Africa, from his harrowing experiences in boarding school to becoming a famous boxer and pianist to working in a diamond mine and finally the showdown with a demon from his past. The friends he gains and loses still stick in my mind as archetypes for my own friendships, from Grandpa Chook the chicken to the big Russian miner, Rasputin. These friends help him to realize that the power he needs is within himself. Thanks for indulging me; I suppose ultimately we are all stars of our own personal drama and as far as I'm concerned Bryce Courtenay wrote this book to me. I want to thank Daniel for introducing me to this book.

Chrissie

I thought the book could have been tightened, better edited and shortened. I was not that interested in the boxing….. The ending (view spoiler)[, with Peekay’s old childhood enemy “The Judge” being the man he worked with in the copper mines, (hide spoiler)] seemed contrived; it felt like the neat ending was too nicely tied up. It felt fictional, although the novel is supposed to be autobiographical. I would have appreciated an author’s note that explained what was fictional and what was fact. Nevertheless it is not a bad read, and the audiobook, narrated by Humphrey Bower was excellently performed. The various characters were each marvelously distinct. I enjoyed learning about the racial inequalities that existed even before the Apartheid ever came into existence in South Africa, copper mining in Rhodesia and cacti. I have met “characters” which I fervently hope are real people – Doc and boxer “Hoppy Rundevald” (spelling questionable) and Geel Piet and Miss Boorstein. Actually, I came to like these people so much more than Peekay! No, it is not a bad book, but I expected more given all the rave reviews I have read. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Sloan

Unbelievable book. I was hooked from the first few pages. Poor Peekay. This kid went through more horrific stuff by the time he was 10 years old than anybody should experience in a lifetime. And he just keeps on going. And going, and going. You have to love this kid. Great story that opened my life to a culture I was not at all familiar with. Terrific ending. You can’t not like this book. But don’t watch the movie, huge let down.

Rebecca Fjelland Davis

I can't remember how many times I've read this book. The voice Bryce Courtenay uses to tell this epic South African story makes me laugh, hold my breath, and shed a tear, even after all these reads. The first time I read this was probably nearly twenty years ago. It's remained on my top-ten-favorite-book list ever since. I've also wanted to go to South Africa ever since. Now I finally get to. I am taking students this May, and the class is reading the book in preparation (we'll also read Kaffir Boy, Africans and Americans, and Coetzee's Disgrace). I guess what I want to say is that this story is touching and inspiring, graphic and gentle, violent and peaceful, and though it's long, the pages fly by. I think it's something that every citizen of the world ought to read. Courtenay died in November. That makes me sad...but it makes me glad to be rereading this novel as a kind of lasting tribute to a wonderful writer.

Mandy

Although this book is really not much at all like the movie (which I highly recommend watching, one of my favorites), it was still a great book. At times, it was a little hard to get into - a lot of talking about boxing, which I don't really care too much about, but in the end it was totally worth it for me. I think this is one of the only books that has ever made me cry, meriting the five stars. Something very near the end caught me off guard and really touched me, bringing me to tears. It felt nice to have that happen while reading.

Mike

This is an amazing book. It is very well written, with wonderful characterization, and does a very good job of capturing the setting (WWII era South Africa, and the racial tensions therein).If I was asked to choose the books largest fault (and it *is* a large fault), oddly enough I would say that the largest fault is it's conscious handling of South Africa and Apartheid. Whenever the author tries to intentionally address these issues he veers too far into sentimentality and symbolism, and the threads of the book which address these issues go curiously incomplete at the end of the book (though perhaps this is not surprising, since the novel was published in the late eighties when Apartheid was still strong). The book is more about the main character, and his journey from the name "Pisskop" (the derogatory name given to him at an Afrikaans boarding school) to "Peekay" (the name he chooses for himself), and how he seeks his own life and individuality while moving through a deeply racist society which he does not always understand (especially in his youth).And it is here that the book does well at handling the issues of South Africa and Apartheid, because while the writing often becomes stilted when the author tries to directly address these issues, as a setting he does a remarkable job of capturing the little nuances and realities of racism in Africa.Well worth reading, and probably one of my favourite books (I was greatly pleased to see this on a list of "10 Great Books You've Probably Never Heard Of"). An excellent novel, with real insight into the racial tensions of the time, and amazingly enough he manages to make it an uplifting novel as well...

Megan

I had high hopes for this book, but in the end was a little disappointed. It seems towards the end of the book he lost track of where he was going with it all and just ended it, although maybe this says more about my lack of getting his point than it does about his writing style. One thing he does have though is energy, and that helped in keeping me interested. I also think the "power of one" is a rather funny concept considering the main character, Peekay, who supposedly possesses (or cultivates) this power owes much of it all to the support he has from many friends, mostly adults. People who took the time and energy and love to support him and promote him, mind, body, and spirit. His power of one is only possible from the love and care of many. And it makes me sad that the story ended with a story of revenge, i think it cheapens the story. So, to conclude all of these random comments, I think that the story had a lot of potential and there were some good things about it, but I think it could have been better executed and I'm not quite sure I agree with the philosophy behind the whole thing.

Heidi

It is to my greatest upset that it took me 28 years to find this book. Clearly the author was inspired in writing this novel. It is a beautiful piece of literature detailing a young and severly disadvantaged boy in South Africa who learns that through his own strength and intelligence, he can be a source of good and serve as a blessing to his people. It is a remarkable read.

Deanne

I just finished reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay which was recommended to me by JK in our little cross country virtual book club. Divided into three parts, this is a story of a boy named Peekay coming of age in 1930-1950's South Africa. So, we've got major historical things happening - Boer War aftermath, Hitler Germany and WWII, the buddings of Apartheid. And then you have this really small boy going through hell at age 5 in a boarding school and learning at this infant stage in life how to survive. His power grows with each new and colorful mentor that he (and we) meets along the way. "First with the head and then with the heart," is his mantra throughout the story. There is little I love more than a good piece of fiction with brilliant and richly described narrative. I just found that a movie was made about the book in 1992... I'm definitely interested in checking it out but I don't want to ruin the absoloodle perfection of this story so I may skip it.

Norah Carroll

This is my boyfriend's favorite book, and I promised him I would read it in November 2011. It has been eighteen months since I made that promise, and since then I've picked up and set down The Power of One on at least four occasions. It wasn't until I reached the last third of the book that I found the story compelling enough to keep my attention.My biggest issue with the novel was the disproportionate amount of the book dedicated to telling the story of Peekay's early childhood. At times, the author went into so much detail that the story felt bogged down, and I fought paragraph by paragraph to advance to the next part of the story. In the end, I made it through the novel only by marking every twenty pages with a post-it note and assigning 20-page sections to myself each day.In retrospect, I appreciate the story for the work it does in telling the story of Peekay's relationships with the adults in his life who support him, characters who dedicate themselves almost entirely to his growth and success, characters I liked far more than the protagonist. These characters lived at the heart of the story, and their admiration (and often, reverence) for Peekay was satisfying if exaggerated.Not since high school have I gotten more pleasure out of having read a book than actually reading it, but I'm no worse for wear. And at least I kept my promise to my boyfriend!

Beem Weeks

During the early years of Hitler's reign of terror, a young orphaned boy in South Africa finds himself a resident of a boarding school run by Afrikaaners. Humiliation and bullying become a way of life for him, especially as England and Germany go to war. But the boy finds friendship in an old German pianist and a black boxing coach who teach him to stand up for himself. This is one of those well-writen novels that is definately worth a read. Bryce Courtenay's characters are solid and memorable, the plot intriguing. The Power of One will have you jumping from anger to joy, and back again.

Kadedra

The Power of One1st Draft The Power of One is a historical fiction novel by Bryce Courtenay. The theme of the book is to how to become a strong person after having a troubled childhood. The Power of One mainly focuses on how Peekay grew up to be a strong person after years of abuse in Africa. Peekay known as Pisskop in the beginning is sent to a boarding school after his mother suffers from a nervous breakdown. While at the boarding school Peekay is bullied by all the other older boys, but specifically by boy the others call the Judge (he is the leader of the bullies). They mostly pick on Peekay because he is white and he wets the bed. Peekay leaves the boarding to live in a place called Barberton. He meets many people while in Barberton, Professor “Doc” Von Vollensteen, Jackhammer(a cocky boxer), and Big Hettie. Professor Von Vollensten had the most impact on Peekay’s life because he became a mentor and the person who Peekay looked for when he needed guidance. Doc taught Peekay how to play music, and how to box and they became like father and son until Doc was arrested on suspicion of being a German spy. Doc was later released but soon dies. Peekay has now grown up and he gets a job at a factory that makes copper. He decides that it is time to move out of Barberton and before he leaves he goes to the local bar and ends in a fight with someone very familiar. I would recommend this book to people who read the Anne Frank story because the two books are very similar because Anne gets pulled away from her home and has to go to a concentration camp and she has to do slave work, Peekay also gets moved away from his home to do slave work and he has to worry about disease and death. The setting of both stories were around the time when Nazi’s were killing everyone who were not like them. I really like this book because it shows that white people are not the only ones to have owned slaves. It shows that African people were just as bad as the whites when it came to owning slaves and abusing them. The book also shows that just because you are in a bad situation doesn’t mean you can’t grow up to be successful. Before Peekay fought in the bar he was a well known boxer.

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