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The Power of One: A Novel Paperback – September 29, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Episodic and bursting with incident, this sprawling memoir of an English boy's lonely childhood in South Africa during WW II pays moderate attention to questions of race but concerns itself primarily with epic melodrama," noted PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The Power of One has everything: suspense, the exotic, violence; mysticism, psychology and magic; schoolboy adventures, drama in the boxing ring.”
The New York Times

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Mti edition (September 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034541005X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345410054
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (620 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

207 of 215 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Power of One is without a doubt, one of most compelling novels I've ever read, and what prompted me into researching a bit into the history of the African (and European) people under Apartheid living in South Africa. The book, although from a British perspective, seems very unbiased, unlike what you might be thinking. The Power of One begins with the main character (who names himself Peekay) heading off to boarding school, away from his beloved nanny, and into the arms of Boers (Dutch, also called Afrikaners), who not only despise him for being British but despise him as a human being. Throughout boarding school, Peekay is ridiculed but promises himself that he'll never cry again. Although Peekay looses a friend (Grandpa Chook- a chicken of all things), he comes to realize the horrible riff that lies between the Dutch and the British. 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. Just an absolutely incredible novel that sets across a striking vision of South Africa before and during the terror that was Apartheid.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Annotation: An inspiration story of a young man named Peekay who struggles in South Africa during World War II to find that it only takes one to change the world. Peekay overcomes obstacles by using his courage to show the power of one.
Author Bio: Bryce Courtenay was born in 1933 in South Africa. He arrived in Australia in 1958 and a year later became an Australian Citizen. He is married to Benita. He also has three sons with her. Courtenay began an advertising career at age twenty six and within five years, he had become Australia's youngest creative director. He retired full time in 1993 to become a writer. Power of One was his first novel and became an international bestseller. The book is translated into eleven different labguages. The book has sold over two million copies. Courtenay also wrote a book, April Fool's Day, in which it was wrote about his youngest son who died in 1991 from AIDS.
Evaluation: I was fist introduced to Courtenay's book when I saw his movie in the seventh grade. Four years later, I decided to read the story behind the movie in this novel. There is no comparison. The movie is a amended summarization of the book and although it is very inspirational, it is not as life changing as the book. I was enthralled in the hardships of Peekay's life as a growing boy in South Africa. He faces many obstacles in racial discriminations with the Afrikaaners since he was English. It is astonishing to see how this boy not only survived his childhood; he also made a tremendous impact on South African society by using the power of one. Peekay meets many people along his journey that only flavors the soup pot. This book was a life changing event for me. Not only did I feel like crying and helping Peekay with his mission, I felt like I have to make an impact on society today. This book receives my highest rating and I can not wait to begin reading it again.
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123 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Judith Miller VINE VOICE on February 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bryce Courtenay makes THE POWER OF ONE seems so authentic that the reader is carried right into the story.
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 the little boy. However, I quickly learned that Peekay is a spirited survivor and would make it through that horrible period of his life. 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. I found an uplifting joy in every success that Peekay experienced.
This is a big book, but I looked forward to my reading sessions every day and I'm sure that part of this story will remain in my mind forever. The character of Peekay is very inspiring.
Next, I plan to read the sequel, TANDIA.
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