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The Power of One (The Power of One #1)

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  51,443 Ratings  ·  4,215 Reviews
No stranger to the injustice of racial hatred, five-year-old Peekay learns the hard way the first secret of survival and self-preservation - the power of one. An encounter with amateur boxer Hoppie Groenewald inspires in Peekay a fiery ambition - to be welterweight champion of the world.
Paperback, 544 pages
Published September 29th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1989)
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Ronell Harkin There is a difference between the book and the film. We had it as one of our setwork books in high school (SA). It's the most incredible story. 20…moreThere is a difference between the book and the film. We had it as one of our setwork books in high school (SA). It's the most incredible story. 20 years later and it's still on my top 10 favorite book list (and I read more than 15 books a month). Simply a beautiful story - and timeless. (less)
Craig Peekay, as Sharon stated, is the main Character in The Power of One. You never really find out his real name because the nickname is given to him…morePeekay, as Sharon stated, is the main Character in The Power of One. You never really find out his real name because the nickname is given to him quite early in the book. The nickname is derived from bullies and uses the letters P and K which stands for "Piss Kop" in Afrikaans. The author has mentioned that the story is about his life, however, he also mentions that parts of the story did not happen or have been exaggerated. Definitely a fantastic read.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Deanne
Apr 13, 2007 Deanne rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay which was recommended to me by JK in our little cross country virtual book club. Divided into three parts, this is a story of a boy named Peekay coming of age in 1930-1950's South Africa. So, we've got major historical things happening - Boer War aftermath, Hitler Germany and WWII, the buddings of Apartheid. And then you have this really small boy going through hell at age 5 in a boarding school and learning at this infant stage in life ...more
Dolors
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who dares to believe
Of all the books I read in 2009 one stands out in the horizon of my memory, a mass market paperback with 540 pages of microscopic print which I devoured in a day and a half.
The Power of one gave me the chance to meet a part of myself that I thought I had lost forever. It rekindled a long extinguished flame of hope, it awakened a lost feeling of wonder, it gave me proof that one can make a difference.

Set in South Africa in the 1930s and 40s , The Power of one is the compelling coming-of-age story
...more
Megan
Apr 10, 2007 Megan rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book, but in the end was a little disappointed. It seems towards the end of the book he lost track of where he was going with it all and just ended it, although maybe this says more about my lack of getting his point than it does about his writing style. One thing he does have though is energy, and that helped in keeping me interested. I also think the "power of one" is a rather funny concept considering the main character, Peekay, who supposedly possesses (or cultivate ...more
Malia
Dec 14, 2015 Malia rated it it was amazing
I hardly know where to begin writing this review. This book had been on my to-read list for a long time. I finally decided to take the plunge and listen to the Audible version, narrated by the fantastic Humphrey Bowers (who really brought SHANTARAM to life also). And now it's over. Twenty hours spent getting to know the wonderful Peekay, and now I'm done? This is one of those books that isn't really over when you finish it. It stays with you and the characters live on inside your head.That's rea ...more
Claudia
Mar 03, 2008 Claudia rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Heather W
May 29, 2007 Heather W rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books! This is a truly inspirational historical fiction about of boyhood in South Africa at the birth of apartheid. Follow the life of a British child who comes of age amidst resentful Boers who are recovering from their own persecution while simultaneously championing the causes of Hitler in Germany. This precocious boy struggles to understand the clash of races and racism while simultaneously overcoming boundaries through the medium of competitive boxing.

One perhaps could ma
...more
Carol
What a nice surprise this book was for me. This coming-of-age story set in 1939 South Africa has a focus on the sport of boxing throughout, which I am generally not a fan of, but certainly loved every minute of it in this story. Peekay endures awful humiliation and abandonment at such a young age yet he struggles along through adversity and heartbreaking losses.

Numerous comments by readers mention they did not care for the ending, but I, for one, loved it! (view spoiler)

...more
Arah-Lynda
May 10, 2015 Arah-Lynda rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-said


This is the story of Peekay, a frail, young, English boy growing up poor in South Africa and of his refusal to be demoralized by the racial torment surrounding him. On the road to becoming a young man he cultivates some uniquely, diverse friends and discovers many truths, not the least of which, are that loyalty, strength, love and compassion, coupled with a insatiable, thirst for knowledge and armed with the focus and courage to stay true to one's own self, can all be fused together, thus harne
...more
Brad
Jan 26, 2009 Brad rated it really liked it
When talking about The Power of One, it is easy to be distracted by "the power of one" itself and place ultimate importance on Peekay's slippery personal philosophy. But to do so to the exclusion of all else but racism is to read only a small portion of Bryce Courtenay's masterwork.

The Power of One also deals with class, religion, science, obsession, faith vs. reason, objectivism, homosocial intimacy, and in one of the finest literary expressions of its kind, the importance of violence.

Peekay's
...more
David
Feb 24, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I have ever read. The reader really gets pulled into the life of PK, experiencing his trials and successes. There are some great laugh out loud moments, such as during his train ride with Big Hettie, and when Granpa Chook decides to express his opinion of The Judge and his Nazi party (though the surrounded circumstance is sad and grim). There are also some very dark times in his life, but these serve to prove the triumph of the human spirit and so are a va ...more
craige
Mar 19, 2007 craige rated it it was amazing
I firmly believe that a book or a movie can be about absolutely anything as long as its well written. There are a few sports movies out there that I have enjoyed, that I got wrapped up in, all because what they were really were was just good stories. This is a book like that. If you do happen to read the back cover, you will learn that the book is about boxing, but it's hardly just about boxing. Saying The Power of One is only about boxing is like saying doing well in school is only about showin ...more
Mason Wiebe
Mar 21, 2008 Mason Wiebe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
At least 3 people I know have told me that this is their favorite book, so I just had to give it a read. It is really, really good. The book follows a young man, Peekay, as he grows up in South Africa in the 30s and 40s. He meets a series of very influential adults and is constantly being shaped by them and also by his many differing experiences growing up. The one theme that stays true throughout is his desire to become the welterweight boxing champion of the world. This is the kind of book tha ...more
Judy
Feb 25, 2008 Judy rated it liked it
I found this book to be a mixed bag. For example, I loved the story of the main character's relationships with others, particularly with an old German professor who helps to shape his mind. However, I got bored with the focus on boxing, something I have no interest in but which permeated every aspect of the story. I thought the treatment of racial and cultural issues was excellent, especially the insights into struggles among the Boers, Afrikaners, and English settlers. On the other hand, I got ...more
Jessica Donaghy
Nov 11, 2008 Jessica Donaghy rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed many elements of this book, and I learned a tremendous amount about boxing and the history of South Africa, through a child's eye view. However, my opinion took a downward plunge toward the end of the book -- specifically the final 5 pages of the book. I don't want to include any spoilers, but what on earth was the author thinking?!? I interpreted the book's message so differently from what is depicted in the final scene. Perhaps I owe the author a second reading. STRANGE!!! ...more
Kathy
Feb 11, 2008 Kathy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
This is the story of Peekay, a young boy growing up in South Africa before, during, and after World War II, and the good people he met along his way to becoming the welterwieght boxing champion of the world. The memorable characters included (among many) Giel Peet, an imprisoned black man who taught Peekay to box; Doc, a gentle 6'7" German professor who taught Peekay to love nature and music and books; and, Miss Boorstein, a brilliant Jewish teacher who fostered Peekay's intellectual genius thr ...more
Chrissie
I thought the book could have been tightened, better edited and shortened. I was not that interested in the boxing….. The ending (view spoiler) seemed contrived; it felt like the neat ending was too nicely tied up. It felt fictional, although the novel is supposed to be autobiographical. I would have appreciated an author’s note that explained what was fictional and what was fact.

Ne
...more
Sarah
May 15, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
I wasn't sure whether I would like this book since all I knew was that it was about boxing which I am not a big fan of, but a girl had told me this was her favorite book so I thought I would give it a try. I loved it. In some ways it is a fasinating look at South Africas devastating history, but the protagonist's innocent perspective just draws you into his story. The characters in the story are what really make it great, Peekay's mentors, friends and even the evil adversaries he has to overcome ...more
Liza Fireman
Apr 22, 2016 Liza Fireman rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Liza by: Deyanne
Shelves: read-from-shelf
Super amazing book. It is hard to describe this book, but I'll give it a try. I would say that it is not a coming-of-age story, even though Peekay grows from the age of 5 to the age of 20 during the story. It is also not a story about WWII, even though the setting is in the late 1930s to mid 1940s, and includes Nazies and racism. It is not a book only about boxing, even though it does include quite a lot of boxing. It is the story of Peekay, wonderful, perfect Peekay. Peekay is so perfect that y ...more
Dena
Aug 15, 2009 Dena rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People I really want to suffer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stacie
Aug 12, 2007 Stacie rated it it was amazing
It is hard for me to find words to describe this book. I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the end, but that was only because of my desire to have it wrapped up and end with Peekay reaching his goal. But, that is not how life works and I think that is what Courtenay was getting at. I can't remember a book that I felt so invested in the character AND loved the writing. I also can't remember the last time I read a book that made me cry more than once. It was a beautiful coming of age ...more
Nathan
Apr 22, 2016 Nathan rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
It lost 1.5-2 stars in the last 10%. I usually don't care all that much about the ending, but I found the last part of this book very disappointing. Still, the writing is good. It has moments that feel surreal, almost slapstick or like a fairy tale. It adds a layer of magic that works well with the skillfully crafted characters and excellent action scenes - the boxing parts are great!
Karen Klink
Aug 03, 2011 Karen Klink rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
I don't usually review a book unless there is something about it that grips me more than usual. This one had a lot going for it, in spite of the information that repeated two or three times, which should never have got past the editor and likely would not have these days.

The ending nearly spoiled the entire story for me. The story and the boy, had one major goal that he was determined to reach for the entire novel, one that was repeated throughout no matter what happened to him. I would make a g
...more
Prairie78
Jun 01, 2009 Prairie78 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pleasegodno
God help me, I'll never finish this book. I'm drowning in uninspired writing.

Ok, I finished it. This was truly one of the most laborious reads I've had in quite a while. Suffice it to say I thought I'd never climb my way out to read another book again in my life. The writing style isn't difficult--it's not that that made it painful to get through. It's just a terribly written book with terribly boring, stock characters who go around doing terribly improbable things that evoke not one ounce of f
...more
Shelli
Dec 31, 2013 Shelli rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, in fact more than I thought I would. I learned much about the struggle and the racism in South Africa. I listened to the audio of this and also read some. The narrator is excellent! Peekay was a wonderful character and great storyteller. Many of the secondary characters were wonderful as well. Do I recommend this read? Absolutel!!!
Otis Chandler
Nov 02, 2006 Otis Chandler rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites, fiction
One of my top 5 favorites. Read this at the deeper/figuring your life out moments - it will give you strength and inspiration.
Mike
Mar 01, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. It is very well written, with wonderful characterization, and does a very good job of capturing the setting (WWII era South Africa, and the racial tensions therein).

If I was asked to choose the books largest fault (and it *is* a large fault), oddly enough I would say that the largest fault is it's conscious handling of South Africa and Apartheid. Whenever the author tries to intentionally address these issues he veers too far into sentimentality and symbolism, and the th
...more
Lindsay
Feb 24, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was ok
Where, oh where do I start with this review? I noticed a few months ago that this book kept appearing in others' Favorites lists, impressed that it has such a following after 20 years. My overall verdict is that I derived some enjoyment from reading the book, at least in parts, but found it to be incredibly lacking and frustrating in others. Part of my issue with this book was that it was just plain written wrong. Not necessarily badly, just wrong. Had the entire story been written by a more ade ...more
Valerie P
Oct 29, 2015 Valerie P rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
The power of one good book!

This book was a slow starter for me, so I got the Audible companion audiobook.... and THAT made all the difference. Soon I was immersed into Peekay's life and found it to be a beautifully (although at times, VERY descriptive) crafted story of a South African boy's coming of age. But it was also so much more, a story of South Africa and the rising tide of Apartheid following WWII. The imagery, lyrical prose, humor, and pathos won me over as did Courtenay's introduction
...more
Scott
Feb 26, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing
It's hard for me to write a review about this book. How can I really put in to words the profound affect it had on me when I first read it? How do I describe that feeling I get when I revisit it every few years or so?

I don't know but I can say this is a story about hope, about redemption, about racism and cruelty, about the power we all have inside to make a difference (whether that be in the world, our community, or simply in one another's lives). The story of Peekay and his mentors, friends,
...more
Erica
Mar 31, 2016 Erica rated it did not like it
I am embarrassed and upset to say that I feel disappointed in Courtnay. This is the first book I have read of his and having grown up on the movie, I thought reading it would be a cinch. I was wrong. It went on and on in great depth about characters and stories that went no where. I only saw fragments of what was in the movie and even then they were twisted slightly. Why is it an international best seller? Do people like to read stories that meander on and on and in circles? How on earth did the ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Power Of One and Challenging Authority 3 43 Oct 14, 2014 03:49AM  
We can have a discussion here 17 162 Sep 03, 2013 02:32PM  
When does Peekay mention that he's English to Doc? 1 22 Aug 24, 2013 08:25PM  
  • A Fortunate Life
  • The Harp in the South
  • A Far Off Place
  • The Story of an African Farm
  • Agaat
  • Kringe in 'n Bos
  • Cloudstreet
  • The Cruel Sea
  • Jock of the Bushveld
  • My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
  • Tsotsi
  • Diamonds, Gold, and War: The Making of South Africa
  • Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
  • A Dry White Season
  • The Girl In Times Square
  • Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
  • A Blade of Grass
  • Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-three Years in the African Wilderness Unraveling the Mysteries of Elephants and People
63
I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less
...more
More about Bryce Courtenay...

Other Books in the Series

The Power of One (2 books)
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“First with the head, then with the heart.” 140 likes
“Always in life an idea starts small, it is only a sapling idea, but the vines will come and they will try to choke your idea so it cannot grow and it will die and you will never know you had a big idea, an idea so big it could have grown thirty meters through the dark canopy of leaves and touched the face of the sky.' He looked at me and continued. 'The vines are people who are afraid of originality, of new thinking. Most people you encounter will be vines; when you are a young plant they are very dangerous.' His piercing blue eyes looked into mine.' Always listen to yourself, Peekay. It is better to be wrong than simply to follow convention. If you are wrong, no matter, you have learned something and you grow stronger. If you are right, you have taken another step toward a fulfilling life.” 95 likes
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