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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concerto of the Great Southland, August 21, 2002
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This review is from: The Power of One: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the chronicle of Peekay, a disadvantaged South African white boy who, at the age of six, decides that he will be the welterweight champion of the world. The story begins in 1939 when Peekay is five, and he is the smallest lad at a boarding school where his bed-wetting affliction is getting him in trouble. He suffers constant abuse from a band of Nazi worshipping older boys, and even the teachers. Peekay copes using his �camouflage,� his chameleon like skill to disguise his true nature.
After a year or so at the boarding school, Peekay is reunited with his mother, who had been hospitalized for conniptions, and his grandfather. He has no father, the author never reveals why not, and none, least of all Peekay, seem to miss him. His mother and grandfather are dear, but uninfluential. Peekay treats his mother with tender respect, fearing that she will have another nervous breakdown, but he shuns her distorted Jesus-freak perception of the world. Grandpa, who mostly tends roses and diddles with his pipe, isn�t much help either.
Peekay is a prodigy, and he has the good fortune to choose good mentors, including a pugilistic railway conductor and an inveterate recidivist at the local penitentiary. The most important of his tutors, however, is Doc, a washed out concert pianist who teaches music and collects aloe and cacti. As Peekay and Doc explore the African veld, Doc tutors Peekay on many subjects, especially the value of thinking for himself.
Through Peekay, Doc and a host of other well crafted characters, Courtenay scrutinizes the logic of born again Christians, the ordained superiority of white men, the relevance of Jewishness, the glory of the English Empire, the origin of Afrikanerdom, the philosophy of apartheid, the disposition of cacti versus roses, and the significance of all deaths, even that of a kaffir chicken. He entangles these concerns with strands of poignant romaticization. You might want to keep the Kleenex box handy, particularly when Doc recuperates his musical genius long enough to compose the Concerto of the Great Southland.
This is a review of the paperback edition.
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