I have a lot of issues with this book, but there are some things that are good, even beautiful about it. Courtenay does a wonderful job of describing the settings and I can feel, taste, smell it as if I were there. Also this book is set in an interesting place with some very important, very heavy themes. He drives home the point of racial equality and the worth of humans regardless of race or religion. The sentiment certainly is noble.
However, the craft of the book is lacking. There is not enough tension in the book (despite all the graphic violence) mostly because it starts off with Peekay being harassed and tortured as a small 5 year old. After his awful experience at boarding school Peekay decides that his destiny is to become a champion boxer and, as soon as he starts boxing, he becomes undefeated with something like 116 fights, he was pretty brilliant concerning music, he speaks something like 5 languages fluently and uses it for the good of mankind, and all his academic pursuits he mostly achieves (no he didn't get the Road Scholarship to Oxford University, but he did get accepted and had scholarships to other Universities). So there was no tension for his character, because after Peekay picks himself up at age 5, he himself is consistently a winner in athletics and academics. His success is a sure bet. Sure people around him have awful lives and some die in horrible ways, but the character seemingly overcomes his early childhood almost as if he were superhuman. It doesn't feel real or accessible to me.
The thing I had most problems with is that Peekay, because of his empathy and his fluency in many languages and the tribal and cultural niceties, somehow becomes the white boy savior of the black people. I think I would have been fine with him doing great things for the black community in an extraordinary way, but the addition to him treating the black people as less than subhuman, changing the prison system so that blacks could get mail from their loved ones, and him starting a school for black people to read and write (all of which are plausible things for an extraordinary character in a historical fiction), but also he became the Tadpole Angel: Zulu spiritual leader of the African tribes of the region. The fact that the blacks in this book regarded him as a magical savior just really seemed overboard for me.
So my basic response to this book was that it was tedious and long and meandered through seemingly a lifetime of this character's experiences, but mostly I found a lot of this novel a little too fantastical for historical fiction. It felt like a lot of wish fulfillment to me.
This is a powerful book that can give the listener good insight into the political climate of South Africa. The reader is superb. I found myself engrossed in this book and looking forward to getting into my car to place myself in the middle of this fantasy.
I am only two-thirds through listening to this book, but I can tell you that this is one of, if not the best, book I have ever listened to. The author and narrator are both superb. I can't wait to listen to it every day on my drive to and from work. And I've even taken to listening to it during my lunch hour!
I came across this book while looking through the books featured in "Great First Listens" on the Audible website. Although this is not my first listen, it is certainly a great listen.
Absolutal - an 11 out of 10!
An amazing and uplifting book. It is has meaning on so many levels. Wonderful writing. The beginning is somewhat difficult in that the story's begininng is disturbing. Stick with it, and you will be rewarded.
Humphrey Bower does a superb job at capturing the voices of the South African characters, and the story is not only convincing but compelling.
The movie took major liberties with the plot, which is unfortunate. I must say that the audio book is brilliant, and I enjoyed it immensely. Absoludel!
Cape Town, South Africa
The Power of One is one of those books you savour each moment of, and mourn once it is over! It is a magnificent story teeming with all the elements that make for a story that touches the intellect, the heart, the human and of course the South African within you. I shall re-read this story many times in my life, as well as the sequel Tandia, for which I can only echo these same words of praise. Humphrey Bower was masterful in his narration and listening to his interpretation of this book in audio form will not rob you of the gifts of imagination which come with reading a book, this vivid portrayal can only enhance your experience!
Highly highly recommended!
Five stars does not seem enough to share between Author and Narrator. The story, the language used and the way it's narrated are brilliant. The first person story telling is real, entertaining and chilling. The first few chapters as a five and six year old had the hairs on my arms almost constantly on end. My new favourite Audiobook by far.
This is my favorite book of all time. I consider myself a well read person and have never been much of a repeat reader- but nothing- nothing - not even Jane Austen- has quite affected me like the Power of One. (Ok maybe that is apples and oranges but you get the point). This should be taught in schools. Literally the best book of all time. And the audio version is quite good! Do not even hesitate to get this!