Customer Reviews: The Power of One: A Novel
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on September 19, 2000
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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on January 8, 2003
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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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2003
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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on February 21, 2000
This is quite simply a magical story. I bought the book after accidentally stumbling upon the film late one night on the BBC. (The film is watchable but quite obviously adapted for a very different audience.) Once I had started reading I couldn't put the book down, so compelling is the plot. It wraps love, happiness, fear, suspense and death up into one bundle and can be deeply profound in places. I found myself crying time and again, sometimes with sadness, sometimes with joy, suffering and winning along with Peekay. The descriptive writing allows the reader to be completely drawn in and to feel part of the setting whether that be a small mountain village, an English boarding school, a boxing ring or a Rhodesian mine. I do agree with previous reviewers that Peekay is positively perfect in every way but if they wish to see him exhibit a few human flaws then they should read the sequel, 'Tandia', which I strongly recommend and don't feel is weak as is the won't of many follow up books. As for the criticism that the book presents all Boers as racists, I felt that it was more a case of many Boers being shown to turn a blind eye (as in the case of Gert and Captain Smit.) This theme becomes increasingly prominent in the sequel and I feel is reasonably accurate. Surely this is how a dictatorship flourishes. I think that this would be a great book for older schoolchildren and I note that many American students came across the book this way. However, I feel that because the book deals with some adult issues it will be avoided by schools in Britain and it is a shame that many kids will miss out as a result.
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on August 16, 2004
This edition does the book no justice. I read the original version, and the story is so much more poignant and well-written in that edition that I was astonished by this one. The editing was terrible and removed a lot of the humor of the original. Definitely do not buy this version.

Otherwise, The Power Of One is one of my favorite novels. It is moving, emotional, and surprisingly humorous at times. The storyline is inspirational and touching. Not only does it tell the story of Peekay's triumphs, but it tells the story of South Africa itself throughout World War II. It's an excellent novel, and one that I highly recommend to fans of all genres.
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on February 10, 2004
After reading a few reviews of the book I simply adore, I found that it might help if you all knew that the later editions of "The Power of One" and "Tandia" have been re-edited!! Lots of minor details not really relating to the storyline have been cut out. Since I read these 2 books at least once a year and have bought later editions as well, I realised that some stories are missing... An example from "Tandia": How Peekay obtained the doll for Carmen, or How Ms. Smith was employed, etc., etc. It these minor details that make the book even more charming and heart warming... If you get the chance, see if you can get hold of an earlier edition. It's worth it!
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on January 29, 2006
This is the story of a boy, Peekay, born in South Africa in the 1930s. It is a tumultuous time politically, with Hitler gaining power in Europe and the seeds of Apartheid being sewn in his own country. Peekay is English, a Rooinek, in a country that is mostly black but controlled by Boers, white descendents of Dutch settlers. This leaves Peekay an outsider. His mother is a religious nut and sends him to boarding school where he suffers at the hands of older Nazi boys. But on the train one day, he meets someone who will change his life: a boxer named Hoppie. Peekay decides that he will grow up to be the welterweight champion of the world. As he works toward this goal, Peekay meets a host of interesting characters that shape his life: Doc, a German exile, botanist and legendary pianist; Geel Piet, a prisoner and boxing coach; and Morrie, a pal at and co-conspirator at boarding school.

Peekay works as a narrator in the same way Scout works in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. He sees the inequities of society with the naive eyes of a child, describing what is happening without commentary. It works well. Peekay is righteous without being self-righteous and an incredibly likable narrator. However, from the description on the back of the book I was expecting for Peekay to be more of a revolutionary, to take a bigger stand than he does. Though he usually does what is right, his first priority is always his boxing.

My biggest criticism of THE POWER OF ONE is that it wraps up too quickly. I could have hung on for a few hundred pages longer, and the end feels rushed. Too many loose ends are wrapped up easily and awkwardly. Peekay, who is annoyingly good at everything (though again, he never seems to be bragging), accomplishes everything he wants, apparently without much difficulty. Still, a great book. The descriptions of the boxing matches, the mixture of tribal mythology and modern politics, and the characters of Doc and Geel Piet are all fantastic.
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on July 9, 2003
I came to this wonderful book just this year. (2003)
The incredible writing style is immaculate, lyrical and
grabs your heart as well as your mind. The story is so
vastly superior to the movie that one cannot compare the
two. The Book tells the story of a young boy at the beginning
of World War II and takes him through the war,
the melting pot of South Africa and how he adapted over
and over to daunting circumstances.
One of the ten best reads of my life,And I'm in my
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on May 31, 1999
...I've read it so many times that almost every page in the last section is falling out, and believe me, it's a pain to have to put the last hundred pages or so in order to reread your favorite book. But this one's worth it.
I saw the last hour or so of the movie and was transfixed, and so I bought the book. Then I saw the movie again, and I didn't like the changes any more--the book was so simple, so succinct, so perfect in its narrative frankness, that the changes they added to the movie (e.g., a love interest) could only take away from the power of Courtenay's story.
Specifics--a young boy growing up in South Africa in the infancy of apartheid straddles the boundaries between academic success, athletic honors, and a driving conviction to deal with the forces of racism and discrimination in the best way he knows how--and he succeeds in all three. Trite? Hardly. Peekay is characterized brilliantly, and the supporting players--Doc, Morrie, et al--are believably complex. You'll become almost as attached to them as you do to Peekay. Courtenay achieves a tour de force I've probably never seen matched in contemporary prose.
This is one I've recommended to almost everyone I know, and I know a lot of people :). Do yourself a favor and *read this book*. I guarantee you, you'll be glad you did.
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on April 5, 2001
When a summer reading book is assigned to a group of ninth graders, inevitably numerous groans and rolling eyes will be found throughout the room. My class was no different in this respect. The next year, though, on the first day of English when asked what we had thought of the novel, rather than the usual silence and shifting eyes that greets such a question, multiple hands shot into the air. Girls and boys had actually read and, even more shocking, loved the summer reading book. Since that time, multiple members of my class, including myself, have read this book time and again, and it has become a favorite throughout the school. Filled with love, relationships, cacti, apartheid, and boxing, Courtenay blends numerous themes together in order to create a moving coming of age story about a young boy growing up in a South Africa torn with strife around the time of World War II. The novel evokes numerous reactions in the reader but through it all remains uplifting. Good for the heart, mind, and soul, this book will leave you completely satisfied.
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