Friday, February 22, 2008

The Power of One

Our local library book club is reading Bryce Courtenay's book, The Power of One as the March selection. Miss Betty had recommended it to me several months ago, so I thought it would be an interesting book, at the very least.

I was very surprised. This book contained more things that don't interest me than I thought could be possible to bring together into a compelling story. Boxing, bullies, shamanism, botany, prison life, betting, precocious children, railroads, and copper mines all blend together with WWII, South Africa, racism, and apartheid to make a book I read without stopping until I'd finished it.

The story is that of an English boy, self-named Peekay, living in South Africa with his widowed mother and grandfather. He was raised mostly by a Zulu nanny, and has a quick and intelligent mind. The story really begins when he is sent away to boarding school at the age of five. He's the only under-age boy there, and he is the only English kid in a school of Boers... who hate all Englishmen. Peekay is bullied and tortured, but at the same time he learns how to distance himself from what is going on, and how to use his mind to get ahead and stay safe. The story continues until he is 17, when he is preparing to go to Oxford for school.

I'm afraid to say much about the plot, for fear of giving away any of the delightful surprises that make the story such a good one. But Peekay is an admirable character, who refuses to hate, who helps those in need - often at great cost to himself, and who doesn't really use others, but depends on himself. This edition was the regular novel Mr. Courtenay first wrote and published. I read that he also edited this book (probably for language, and perhaps for a few graphically violent scenes) and published a version for younger children that only covers Peekay up until he began high school.



Blogger Julie said...

I loved that book. it's been many years since I read it and am glad you reminded me of it again.

The movie brings back echoes of the book, and the music is fantastic, but its not the same. Have you seen it?

9:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

No, I don't think I have. Surely I'd remember it, if I had seen it? Was it very much like the book?

10:58 PM  
Blogger Marg said...

I haven't read this book for years, and yet I still remember the events in it quite well.

Are you going to read the sequel, Tandia!

3:15 AM  
Blogger Wool Winder said...

I have heard good things about his book, but have never read it. I think I'll look for it at our library.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Marge, I did not know there was a sequel! I'm ordering a copy immediately - is it as good as the first book?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Marg said...

It's not as good as the first book but it is worth a read.

2:16 PM  
Blogger DebD said...

this sounds like a wonderful book. I think I'll suggest it for book club.

6:50 PM  

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