The Power of One

By Bryce Courtenay,

Book cover of The Power of One

Book description

“The Power of One has everything: suspense, the exotic, violence; mysticism, psychology and magic; schoolboy adventures, drama.”
–The New York Times

“Unabashedly uplifting . . . asserts forcefully what all of us would like to believe: that the individual, armed with the spirit of independence–‘the power of one’–can prevail.”

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Why read it?

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

Never would I expect to fall in love with a book whose anchor is boxing, but that’s exactly what happened when I read The Power of One. Possibly because Peekay—an abandoned boy of English heritage growing up in South Africa after the Boer War and during the rise of Nazi Germany—is so damn loveable. Possibly because the author is adept at weaving audacious characters, cultural clash, and mysticism into a delightful yet thought-provoking yarn. The Power of One had me at chapter one when Peekay’s Zulu nanny, a medicine man, and a chicken named Granpa Chook cure his “night…

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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