Friday, April 2, 2010

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

I had so many friends recommend this book to me my only question is, why didn't I listen and read it sooner?! The book begins when a five-year-old boy is being sent off to boarding school. He's small for his age, white and of English descent. His name is Peekay and he lives in South Africa. Up to this point in his life he's known only his family and his beloved black Nanny. Now, he's forced to take care of himself and survive under the most brutal of circumstances. The time is World War II and Peekay spends years in a boarding school where he's the only English student among Afrikaners who are sympathetic to the Nazi cause. He's beaten, tortured and treated as a "prisoner of war" by the older boys. The Afrikaners are the descendents of the Dutch and there has been a great deal of conflict between them and the English settlers who came to South Africa at a later period of time.

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn't sure if I could handle the passages about the brutal treatment of this sweet little boy. However, I quickly learned that Peekay is a spirited survivor and would make it through that horrible period of his life. He battles through adversity and every challenge and refuses to let it dampen his will to accomplish his ultimate goal. First with the head and then with the heart...!!  On his vacations from school, he meets several people, both black and white who really influence him and teach him to work hard in order to fulfill his dreams.

After leaving boarding school, Peekay encounters a man who teaches him about some of the essentials of what he believed was the power of one, and from this man (a Boer) he discovers his love of boxing, which became his obsession, becoming Welterweight Champion of the World became his goal and his life. This is just the idea behind the power of one, and the introduction of the story. From there, the book tells about the many people Peekay encounters throughout his life and the influence they had upon him and what he believed was the power of one. But what struck me was really how beautifully written the novel is and the way it combines wit, humor, drama, and the everyday troubles of life, and still manages to get its message across and entertain the reader. You also can feel the tenderness that so many people feel for this boy.  Just an absolutely incredible novel that sets across a striking vision of South Africa before and during the terror that was Apartheid.  I found an uplifting joy in every success that Peekay experienced and couldn't wait to get back to this gem of a book.  Absoloodle.

Rating: 4.5 Recommend