THE POWER OF ONE – BRYCE COURTENAY

First with your head and then with your heart...
In 1939, hatred took root in South Africa, where the seeds of apartheid were newly sown. There a boy called Peekay was born. He spoke the wrong language–English. He was nursed by a woman of the wrong color–black. His childhood was marked by humiliation and abandonment. Yet he vowed to survive–he would become welterweight champion of the world, he would dream heroic dreams. 

But his dreams were nothing compared to what awaited him. For he embarked on an epic journey, where he would learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the mystical power that would sustain him even when it appeared that villainy would rule the world: The Power of One.

Spoiler Warning!  This review may contain spoilers that might give you just a tad more information than you should know in approaching this book.  If you are okay with that then go right ahead and read it.  I do my best to avoid giving away too much but sometimes I just cannot help myself...

The Power of One follows a young boy as he navigates his way through life in the divided and hostile lands of South Africa.  It is the story of an English child who refuses to be demoralised by the discrimination that constantly surrounds him.  It is the story of Peekay, the boy who brought hope to the hopeless and sight to the ignorant, the boy who fought against oppression. 


On his journey to becoming a man, Peekay encounters a number of diverse friends, all offering a new lesson on how to get through life.  These friends educate Peekay in compassion, love, loyalty and strength and provide him with courage to stay true to himself and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  This book deals with race, class, objectivism, faith vs. reason, obsession, religion and science.  Simply remarkable and enlightening, this was an eye-opening read that I would recommend to all.  This is a book everyone should read at some point in their lives.


“Pride is holding your head up when everyone around you has theirs’ bowed.  Courage is what makes you do it.”


This tale also stresses the importance of childhood.  Courtenay understands that a person learns a lot at a young age and that we build our morals through our natural curiosity in our youth, which is vital to development.  The life that Peekay lived, while difficult and paved with misfortune, was almost a lucky one.  Peekay’s life allowed him to do more good than most could even dream of doing.  For that, I am a tad envious.  

I started reading this book because I am absolutely in love with the movie so I approached the novel with a number of expectations, which were unfortunately not met.  I was a little disappointed to find that the book and the movie are vastly different.  While, yes, the book is amazing, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that some of my favourite parts from the movie were not in the book.  I found I was waiting for a plot that I loved but it never came which slightly lessened my enjoyment of the narrative.  

I also found that I didn’t get much closure at the end.  Unlike in the movie, I was left with a great number of questions; does Peekay go on to become welterweight champion of the world or does he go to Oxford?  What happens with the Tadpole Angel?  Does Peekay continue to aid the South African natives or does the story die out?  So many questions that I want answered, I felt that the ending left me a bit flat.  Despite this, I struggled to put this book down and I can safely say that should be on everyone’s must read list.

The Power of One is beautifully written and Courtenay exquisitely captures the essence of childhood in Peekay as he gazes wide-eyed at his confusing and confronting world, attempts to wrap his head around the politics of adulthood and endeavors to avoid getting caught up in the destruction of discrimination within society.

If you have seen the movie, I’d suggest you read the book like they are completely separate from each other.  I’d also recommend to a more mature reader due to the number of confusing concepts throughout the book and I’d assume that a younger reader would get bored.  Also, if you are not a fan of swearing, the misuse of God’s name or general talk on topics that may be deemed inappropriate, consider whether you are okay with reading this.  The kid does go through puberty...  I’ve read a few comments which note the presence of strong violence and sexual references but, personally, I didn’t consider it too bad.  Deliberate it for yourself before deciding to read it.


Rating: 3/5



Get your hands on this inspirational book here at Amazon or at Book Depository here.

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