The Power of One

By Bryce Courtenay,

Book cover of The Power of One

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Power of One as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is the first novel that ever made me blubber hot, soul-wrenching tears. Little Peekay, the scrappy underdog, survives bullies at boarding school (horrors based on the author’s experiences) by befriending a rooster, Granpa Chook. Oh, how I love that chicken for saving Peekay’s sanity!

Despite being wrenched from his nanny’s loving arms as a 5-year-old and sent to boarding school, Peekay attracts an eclectic extended family who molds him through his foundational years into a formidable boxer. One character I’ve never forgiven is Doc. He had the power, wealth, and status to take Peekay under his wing instead of…

Peekay is a little boy born in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred. After being adored by a Zulu nanny during his early childhood, he is sent away to a boarding school at a young age when his mother has a mental breakdown. I, too, had a divided life as a child. I spent the school year in my parent’s home with its dire poverty and abuse and then was set blissfully free to spend my summers at my grandmother’s farm, a loving sacred haven. The two disparate sides of my life predispose me to feel intensely for…

This is one of only a few books that I have re-read several times in my life. It’s not a perfect book – it could do with some editing – but it’s a compelling story with a unique character at the heart of it. It’s the story of a young white boy, Peekay, growing up in Apartheid South Africa, who has a special gift. The sport in this book is boxing, but – as in most books about sport – it’s really about other things: coming of age, politics, violence, class, race, nature, magic, love, and friendship. I was so…

From F.J.'s list on fiction with sporty characters.

The late Australian author Bryce Courtenay was a gifted storyteller and this novel, centering on a white English boy in South Africa, nicknamed Peekay, is an Australian classic. Written from a first-person perspective with events from 1939 to 1951, it charts his rise to a boxing champion and is an inspirational story about how you can achieve (almost) anything if you want it enough. A Hollywood movie was made of it in 1992.

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