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

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  58,881 Ratings  ·  4,523 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.
Audio Cassette, Unabridged
Published January 28th 2004 by Bolinda Publishing (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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Community Reviews

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Elyse
Apr 27, 2017 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow... incredible!!!
I fell in love with Peekay even 'before' he was five years old, starting in South Africa, when he shares of being nursed from his lovely black nanny before being sent to boarding school. ( although we follow him from age 5 to 20 - from the late 1930's to mid 40's).

Our oldest daughter attended a boarding High School in Michigan for a short time -an academic/arts school. The family separation was painful. I can't begin to imagine sending a 5 year old away to a boarding school
...more
Deanne
Apr 13, 2007 Deanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Megan
Mar 24, 2007 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2013 Malia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew
Took me some time to read, but not because it wasn't good, but just because there is so much to this story. A supremely well written book! If you like historical fiction - the type focused on people living in certain historical eras, not necessarily specific historical events - you will enjoy this story. I now feel like I have a good feel for WWII era South Africa. Also, if you like interesting characters and good character development, this is a good story for you, too.
Claudia
May 31, 2007 Claudia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Heather W
May 28, 2007 Heather W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Arah-Lynda
Jul 23, 2011 Arah-Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 01, 2009 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J. Yates
Oct 01, 2016 J. Yates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review of Audio book, The Power of One written by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bower.

This has been both a Hard and Easy review to write. The Power of one is a wonderful autobiographical novel which has been made into a fantastic audio book. Astonishingly this was Bryce Courtenay debut novel. Humphrey Bower is both experienced and gifted narrator and the perfect pick as he is able to pull off a convincing South African accent.
Hard to write up as it has so many powerful, tender and tanta
...more
David
Feb 23, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Maria
Feb 13, 2016 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book three times and each time it's as good as the previous read, if not better. A semi-autobiographical novel, Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One is set in South Africa immediately before, during and after WWII. The novel's protagonist is Peekay - just Peekay - who is, in all respects, a remarkable young man. The story begins when Peekay is 5 years old and ends when he is 17, but the 12 years covered are formative; although we don't know what lies in store for Peekay by the end o ...more
Mason Wiebe
Feb 03, 2008 Mason Wiebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Megan Baxter
Jan 06, 2012 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When did this book sneak up on me? It's a story of a prodigy - mentally, physically, in geology, botany, boxing, gambling, chess, in pretty much anything but music, where he's merely competent. Bryce Courtenay's hero should irritate the hell out of me. And yet somehow he doesn't. It's also the story of how a white boy becomes a symbol of power for black South Africans. I'm a little uncomfortable with that, and yet, it's handled as well as such things can be.

Note: The rest of this review has bee
...more
Sarah
Mar 31, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Anne
This was a curious book because I never really knew which direction it was headed in. You would think Peekay was headed in one direction and then things would change. It was also a wonderful book and I had tears of joy and victory in my eyes more than once. The narrator was beyond brilliant. Peekay often made comments in a very dry way and the narrator really added some expression to these parts. He was wonderful and even if I listened to him in a dozen books I would always associate him with th ...more
Lena♥Ribka
Audible

I came across Bryce Courtenay through the narrator. I was such impressed by Humphrey Bower performance in Shantaram that I immediately started to look for his other works after I had finished it.

It is a fate. Now I'm looking forward to reading more by Bryce Courtenay, because his books are exactly the kind of a life story I am seeking for.

The Power of One takes place in South Africa and covers the period of time from the early 1930s up to the late 1940s, the birth of apartheid. It tells
...more
Kathy
Feb 11, 2008 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dena
Aug 15, 2009 Dena rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People I really want to suffer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Otis Chandler
Nov 02, 2006 Otis Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
One of my top 5 favorites. Read this at the deeper/figuring your life out moments - it will give you strength and inspiration.
Prairie78
Jan 15, 2009 Prairie78 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stacie
Jul 27, 2007 Stacie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Courtney
Feb 11, 2007 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mustread
Very moving. A weak and friendless English boy growing up in South Africa during World War II, Peekay turns to two older men, one black and one white, to show him how to find the courage to dream, to succeed, to triumph over a world when all seems lost, and to inspire him to summon up the most powerful force - the power of one. (excerpted from editorial reviews)
Mikelle
Jun 22, 2014 Mikelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a quick and easy read, but very well-written.
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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...

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“First with the head, then with the heart.” 158 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.” 108 likes
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