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The Power of One In 1939 as Hitler casts his enormous cruel shadow across the world the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa There a boy called Peekay is born His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words the power to transform lives and the power of one 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 lossesNumerous comments by readers mention they did not care for the ending but I for one loved it view spoilerI kept wondering when the 'judge' would reappear hoping he would get his comeuppance and was so glad Peekay gave it to him good When early in the book the 'judge' abused Peekay even after he did all his homework and promised otherwise made him eat human sht tortured and killed Granpa Chook Peekay's beloved and clever rooster and only friend the ending made me feel pretty darn satisfied As for becoming the World's Welterweight Champion you knew he would do just that hide spoiler 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'sOur oldest daughter attended a boarding High School in Michigan for a short time an academicarts school The family separation was painful I can't begin to imagine sending a 5 year old away to a boarding school even in the 'best' of conditionsAnd the fact that this story is inspired by the authors real lifefor me this is one of the most wrenching parts of the entire bookbeing sent away from his family at age 5 from 'love' he was receiving to 'hatred' he was walking into Peekay is bullied and abused almost immediately upon arrival as a 5 year old at his boarding school He's the youngest child in the school Missing the comfort of his Black nanny Peekay is English and white who would soothe his hurtsmissing his mother who was sent away due to a nervous breakdown Peekay was the first live example of the congenital hate they carried for his kind The Boer War had created great malevolent feelings against the English who were called the 'rooineks' It was a hate that had entered the Afrikaner bloodstream and pocked the hearts and minds of the next generation Given that Peekay spoke English he pronounced sentences that killed their grandfathers and grandmothers to the world's first concentration camps Little Peekay had no advance warning that he was wicked before coming to the school One of the other kids called 'Judge' abused Peekey regularly Peekay even made a deal with him to do the Judge's homework and make sure he didn't fail but he still continues to abuse him really 'tortured him We see how Peekay begins to survive horrific conditions at such a young tender age Peekay says One thing got to them than anything else They could make me cry Even the Judge with all of the fear he could provoke could not make me cry I suspect they even began to admire me a bit Many as them brothers my age at home and they knew how easy it is for a five year old to cry In fact I had turned six but nobody had told me so in my head I was still five Not being able to cry was the hardest part for me as well Crying can't be a good camouflage In truth my willpower had very little to do with my resolve never to cry I had learned a special trick and in the process had somehow lost the knack of turning on the tap Peekay is a diamond in the roughan inspiring character He's smart open minded and doesn't have an ounce of bitterness or hatred in him He develops meaningful friendships with teachers and mentors who teach him to read He meets a healer and a boxer We learn a tremendous amount about boxing We also learn a lot about the history of South Africa through the eyes of a child The themes of discrimination were well defined by the author the Boers vs the English South Africans vs the Germans the Jews vs the Germans white Africans vs the Black Africans Violence is graphic so be warned It's a cruel and beautiful world we live in The dazzling writing style of Bryce Courtenay is captured in this his debut novel Its intricate prose and powerful characters bring a story to life that few readers will be able to resist In rural South Africa during the late 1930s Peekay is a young boy who has been sent to boarding school With English roots Peekay struggles in this school where the Boer boys ridicule him for his heritage turning verbal pokes into full on malicious attacks With war building in Europe Peekay is led to believe by classmates that Hitler will soon arrive in South Africa to toss the shackles from the Afrikaner people long subjugated by the English After a number of brush ups with others the matron agrees to send Peekay to his grandfather’s home a long train ride across the country Eager to leave Peekay begins the long train ride soon joined by the conductor Hoppie Groenewald This new friend helps Peekay with the ways of the rails as well as being an amateur boxer in his own right Peekay develops a passion for boxing and attends a bout where Hoppie is set to meet a much larger opponent all during the train’s layover Peekay is astonished when he sees Hoppie box as well as the passion that others feel about the sport From there it is back on the train where Peekay must survive the rest of the journey without his dear Hoppie Arriving at his grandfather’s home Peekay has distant memories of life with his family including two young kitchen maids who keep him entertained As he tried to acclimate to life in rural South Africa Peekay befriends a highly interesting man one Professor ‘Doc’ Karl von Vollensteen Doc is a former concert pianist from Germany whose interest in botany piues Peekay’s curiosity allowing him to further his education in a less formal setting War continues to rage and South African officials choose to detain Doc citing his German heritage as an issue that cannot be overlooked While incarcerated Doc continues to share his passion of music with Peekay and the other prisoners many of whom are poor blacks Straddling the middle Peekay is able to forge strong friendships with the prisoners who respect him for not treating them as lower class citizens as well as with the guards who help hone is boxing skills Still young Peekay must sell his abilities as a boxer to those who will help shape him into the athlete he hopes to become Peekay’s passion for learning helps him excel in school and he’s sent off to yet another boarding school but remains close to all those who have helped him along his path The reader can easily become lost in Courtenay’s fabulous narrative that continues to twist from here adding depth and insight to an already powerful tale Highly recommended for those who love complex stories that touch on history and coming of age How do I feel about the book As Professor von Vollensteen would say “for this I give eleven out of ten Absoloodle” Those who have not experienced a Bryce Courtenay novel are in for a treat with this piece Not only does the reader have the opportunity to experience Courtenay’s first foray into writing but also experience his uniue style which combines well developed characters with a plot that is rich with detail Some may find his writing to be both excessive and too much to digest in a single novel but it is this that makes the books even enjoyable Courtenay uses an interesting formula in his writing which the attentive reader will discover as they meander throughout his novels this one being no exception There are scores of characters who cross the pages each serving to develop their own backstory and to offer a slice of character revelation for the protagonist Peekay While the reader will notice strong ties between Peekay and one character in the early portion of the book that individual will soon vanish though their life lessons and impact are felt throughout the rest of the story Courtenay inundates the reader with names and characteristics which may cause some to stumble or reuire crib notes but rest assured it is well worth the temporary confusion Having read all of Courtenay’s novels I can see character themes that reemerge including token characters of a variety of backgrounds The story itself becomes a tale full of twists and turns such that the path on which the narrative is leading the reader soon changes leaving what one might have expected to be left in the proverbial dust This is also something that some may criticise but I find this serpentine journey to be refreshing and forces the reader to remain engaged rather than skim through parts of the story As Courtenay calls this piece his loose attempt at a fictionalised autobiography yes the dichotomy of the statement is not lost on me the historic moments and struggles are than conjured up dramatisations from world events but actual experiences that Courtenay felt One can only imagine the strife in which South Africa found itself in the late 1930s and into the 40s The Afrikaner population is still smarting as they are being regulated by the English but they too have developed a sense that perhaps Hitler can come to save them and return the land to the rightful Boers Peekay feels this throughout the novel an English boy tossed amongst the strong willed Afrikaners who look down upon him However there is also the theme of brewing apartheid which has been loosely permitted for decades already Courtenay’s narrative shows the subjugation of the black population and the brutality that is inflicted upon them While I do not condone this whatsoever I have always been very interested in the apartheid mentality and how the Afrikaners justified it to the world Courtenay offers up a front row seat to the reader hoping they will better understand what went on As an aside the book’s publication came just as the grip of apartheid was loosening so it may be an educational piece to those who could not fathom the true horrors of the policy as it gained momentum and became a way of life It is this sort of depth that has drawn me to all of Courtenay’s books as he offers than a superficial look at the world which entertaining the reader True his books are long and tangential but like a well paced journey they permit the reader to gather many wonderful nuggets of information from page to page As a friend commented to me recently the story ends somewhat abruptly and has no strong sense of finality Therefore I’ll rush to get to the seuel Tandia to continue the exploration of Courtenay’s AfricaKudos Mr Courtenay for such a stupendous piece Re reading this book has solidified why I consider it one of my favourites and a book I’d surely pack for an island isolation This book fulfils Topic # 3 Island Reading in the Euinox #3 Reading Challenge Lovehate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons a different sort of Book Challenge Audio version with introduction by the author himself He is such a larrikin with a happy voice Bryce Courtenay's debut apparently toiled over at the kitchen table with his son's girlfriend stating This is the best book I've read you need to publish it or words to the effect The rest they say is history First with the head then with the hands What an Australian classic one that I should have read by nowPeekay starts out as a tiny tot I have a 6 year old son and therefore horrified who suffers dreadful abuse at this young age at boarding school at the hands of horrible older boys one in particular Emerging a wonderful well rounded and amazing human beingMemories of his beloved wet nurse neurotic mother and beloved music teacher and mentor; this is an epic story centring on the discipline and craft of boxing South Africa is a sometimes bleak and beautiful place told from around the time of 1930 1940 Worthwhile reading Amazing narration290318 Addendum I stumbled across notes taken during my audio read so I have some thoughts On Peekay losing one of his most favourite people in the world due to a zealously religious and neurotic mother ” The lord is a shithead and I allowed myself a good cry” “The only person I knew not to have camouflage was Nanny” There are too many sweet and wonderful comments from Peekay I must purchase the hard copy it would be a valuable asset to any bookshelf Peekay’s grandfather I loved reading these parts between the young and the old There’s a good lad” Tap tap Stroke ” goes Grandfather’s pipe processPeekay’s perception “Very high up born again Christian” ” This was so humorous with the full on nature of Peekay’s mother so worried about the ranking of all this stuffI cannot read my writing so I hope I am doing Mr Courtenay justice here “To emerge as myself To regain the power of one”

  • Paperback
  • 544 pages
  • The Power of One
  • Bryce Courtenay
  • English
  • 25 July 2015
  • 9780345410054

About the Author: Bryce Courtenay

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 mountainsIt 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

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