Select one of the keywords
The Power of One: Young Reader's Condensed Edition    by Bryce Courtenay order for
Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (1989)
Hardcover, Paperback

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

I received a sweatshirt as a holiday gift, appliqued with a woman sitting surrounded by piles of books, and the statement 'There is no such thing as too many books.' Hear! Hear! But sometimes a magnificent read is missed, at least for a while. The Power of One was such a book for me, one of the best I have ever read. Though a young reader's condensed edition, I recommend it to adults as well. It opens in 1939 Transvaal, South Africa, with the terror of Hitler 'a shadow across the land'. It is also forty years after the Boer War between the Dutch and English, with hatred still abiding as well as the 'seeds of apartheid'.

The story is narrated by Pisskop - a name assigned by bullies at his boarding school. He was sent to live there at age five, leaving his granpa's chicken farm. His mother was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown, and he was nurtured by his beloved Zulu Nanny. The permanent name he chooses is Peekay. At the end of the school's second term, Peekay travels by train to the town of Barberton. On the first leg of the trip, his guardian is Hoppie Groenewald, a welterweight champion boxer. This first exposure to the sport of boxing instills in him the drive to become welterweight champion. Peekay has a brilliant mind and a broad heart, and he comes to know the meaning of hatred.

Peekay meets Professor 'Doc' Von Vollensteen, once a famed pianist, who teaches him music. When Doc is falsely accused and arrested as an enemy of the state, Peekay, a local librarian, and a lawyer fight to save him. Peekay wins visitation rights to his friend in prison, leading him into the boxing world again. Kafir Geel Piet warns him, 'Small baas, if I teach you these things a street fighter knows, you will lose your speed and caution and when you lose your caution you will lose your skill.' Peekay muses, 'Mix-the-head with-the-heart you're-ahead from-the-start ... It was becoming the plan I Peekay would follow for the remainder of my life; it was to become the secret ingredient in the power of one'.

Readers of The Power of One will experience prejudice and hatred, happiness and sadness, loyalty, friendship, and love. The story has great depth and meaning. The ending is a majestic blend of humanity, the boxing sport, music, words, and the power of one. Courtenay writes in his author's notes, 'never stop reading ... a book is just about the best friend a person can have' - a notion that rates the professor's favorite word, 'Absoloodle!'

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews