Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Power of One


The 'Power of One' By Bryce Courtenay. 

In the name of perfect literary taste I really could not start this blog with any other book. 


You! Really, if you are breathing this is the right book for you. Lover's of fiction requiring a good dose of 'little beating big' will be in sheer heaven. If you are not addicted to Bryce after this I want to know why!


This novel introduces us to a young Peekay and his country’s beautiful, yet scarred landscape of demons and imperfections. It evokes stunning and simultaneously horrifying images of South Africa in the 1940’s. Remembering that Hitler's shadow has just been cast over much of Europe. 

Peekay, the only white child in the Afrikaner boarding school, is shocked to discover that he is the enemy and he embraces camouflage to survive. Racism and the complications of perceived human inequality are displayed in the adult world around him. A world that is not only out of his control, but also largely beyond his innocent understanding. 

If you aren't crying over the chicken in this book and feeling the heaviness of the 'loneliness birds' or getting lost in the 'night country' then something is wrong with both your tears ducts and your beating heart. I wanted to gather little Peekay in my arms! It is a challenging portrayal of the world through a child's eyes and begs consideration for the disregard of how confusing and frightening things often appear for children. 

Bryce so skillfully highlights the inconsistencies in the 'grown-up world' and the stark contradictions inherent in hate based belief systems.

Peekay is fortunate to meet Hoppie, the first to ignite hope and change the course of circumstance in his young life. The mental shift from ‘victim’ to ‘purposeful survivor’ is echoed in the book's mantra; 'little can beat big.'  Bryce explores the darkness of inequality through the suppressed screams of each unlikely hero who enters Peekay’s life.

The fighter within me sided with Doc, the German piano player and Geel Piet, who teaches Peekay the art of boxing with your head and heart.  

I began pondering the frailty of human existence and the ultimate show down of both independent thought and boxing gloves as innocence begins to triumph over corruption, even as the novel reveals the inner pain of many of Peekay’s tormentors. Violence wins over violence. Perhaps there is a fine line between the use of persuasive strength for the rights of freedom verses forceful manipulation and abuse?

Ultimately, I was left considering how blinded we often are to our own agendas and other’s sufferings. The work of hate is often subtle. What dangers there are in living an unquestioned existence marred by mediocrity. 

Bryce uncovers humanity’s use of camouflage for both survival and ignorance and confronted both the ugliness and magnificence of human interaction in an unashamed and unapologetic novel.

A seriously amazing read.


In his own words in an interview with ABC radio on their 'Talking Heads' program back in 2006 Bryce said, "I wrote the 'Power of One as a practise book. And I finished it, as I recall, in a year and 17 minutes... And I tied it up with twine and used it as a doorstop in the kitchen. Eventually it was discovered and, of course, it has now sold 7-odd million copies in 11 languages world wide."(Link to ABC interview)

Need I say more? I wonder how many writers wish they could say that of their first book?

"What's in the box by the door, Honey? Oh, Nothing. Just a little something I typed up."

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book so much. My Australian sister gave it to me for my birthday one year. I think I loved TANDIA even more. If an author can make me feel passionate about boxing of all things, that's talent.