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

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  50,068 Ratings  ·  4,119 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.
Published (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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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
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
Apr 10, 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
Mar 03, 2008 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 29, 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
Dec 14, 2015 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
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)

May 10, 2015 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
Jan 26, 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.

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
Feb 24, 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
Mason Wiebe
Mar 21, 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
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 Donaghy
Nov 11, 2008 Jessica Donaghy 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
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
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.

May 15, 2015 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
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.
Aug 12, 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
Karen Klink
Aug 03, 2011 Karen Klink rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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!!!
Mar 01, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 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
T.L. Williams
Jul 31, 2014 T.L. Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to T.L. by: Carol Williams
Bryce Courtney's debut novel, The Power of One left me hungry for more of his compelling characters, Peekay,
Doc, Granpa, The Prison Gang, Miss Bornstein, Ms Boxall, the Judge and on and on. Set in South Africa during WW II it offers a tantalizing journey of a young English boy, Peekay, thrust into situations that would test the mettle of the most morally and physically strong amongst us, and yet he conquers all. His chief mentors in life, a German professor, English librarian, and an unlikely a
Otis Chandler
Nov 02, 2006 Otis Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Maria Paiz
Aug 17, 2015 Maria Paiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful! The Power of One is definitely my favorite book so far this year. It tells the story of Peekay, a British child growing in pre-WWII South Africa who, in his early years, suffers enough loss, abuse, and loneliness to have doomed his fate. He is fortunate, however, to meet several people along the way that help shape and strengthen his character. One of them, a Zulu witch doctor, teaches him to find the power of serenity and stability within himself. A guard on a train introduces him to ...more
Courtenay's "The Power of One" made me wish that I had met Peekay, this little warrior, and his mentors when I was younger. The book has given me a lot of food for thought, and I know that it would have inspired and guided me as well if I was younger.

It is interesting to mention that I had to put the book aside for a couple of weeks right in the middle of it, as I was finishing my MBA and working on the final project with a few other guys. The project was called "Small can be big". It felt like
Feb 03, 2009 Stupac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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  
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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 about Bryce Courtenay...

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“First with the head, then with the heart.” 135 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.” 93 likes
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