Born in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred, this one small boy will come to lead all the tribes of Africa. Through enduring friendships with Hymie and Gideon, Peekay gains the strength he needs to win out. And in a final conflict with his childhood enemy, the Judge, Peekay will fight to the death for justice.
©1989 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2000 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.
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!
"decent page-turner, but over -rated"
This is well narrated and its simple story-line makes it an easy listen in some respects. But the hero, apparently supposed to be based on the author's early life (?!), can do no wrong so any sense of reality is kept at arm's length. The emphasis of all the action is of the hero suffering and/or observing gross abuse ranging from vicious childhood bullying to aspects of living in the racist police state of South Africa (late 1930s - 1950s in this book). It was a scary place to live and some of the horrors are simply used as a vehicle for the hero's personal voyage and development, rather than giving any real insight. Not necessarily a bad thing for a piece of entertainment, but so much less than the book's many fans had led me to expect. A prolific author in his late years, for my taste he went on to write much better novels than this, his first and still best-known.
"An Epic Story"
This is a wonderful book wonderfully delivered.
Humphrey Bowers narration was flawless and superlative. The book springs to life from his delivery.
Have always wanted to read this book as I had heard so much about it and was not disappointed, great read.
Doc, as he was so proud of pk
Haven't heard him before
As a South African, this book would probably hold more reference to me than most people who read/listen to it. The Power of One is an outstanding listen in understanding the psyche of someone who lived during the apartheid regime and felt like pretty much most anyone else about the abhorrent nature of that time. This is a story of courage, of weak vs strong, David vs Goliath and most importantly, right vs wrong. Told in a mostly colloquial sense, I simply could not turn it off. Read it now!
Hoppie Groenwald - his influence on Peekay's early years clearly defines the boys character for later life. His intolerence of racism, coupled with his deep-hearted perservernece inspires Peekay to become the man he does
The fight scene between Peekay and the heir to the Zulu chiefdom
Fight for what you believe in
Amazing, accurate account of growing up in South Africa and attending boarding school. Very moving and fantastic in the detail of PKs adventures...
"A scary truth set in a powerful story"
A great book.. The reality of apartheid set in the story of a young white boy. His simple innocence and the terrible world in which he lives shows a unique portrayal of the issues. This book will have you laughing, then crying and desperate to read the follow up book Tandia to find out what happens next. I couldn't stop listening.
"One of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to!"
The narrator of this audiobook is fantastic and makes it even better than reading the book itself. One of the most interesting and inspiring stories I have ever come across, probably even more so if you are South African. The characters are excellent and there's never a dull moment. I even learnt quite a bit about boxing...
Would definitely recommend.
"I felt the pain"
Such an in depth description of life in South Africa after the Boer war, I learned so much. I have dropped it to 4 stars because I did sometimes feel that the charachter PK was "too good to be true" and glorified in his sucess a little too much.
However you do feel as though you are there, and the narrator very sucessfully modified his accent for the different charachters
Really enjoyed this book so much! Peake has a great story to tell.
The reader does an excellent job of 'doing' all the different character voices, well done!
Reason for ERGH is that I've finished it - wow I loved this book - some of the sentences are life changing quotes. As Peekay says "with the head and then with the heart".
Use your head and buy this book and with your heart you will love it forever.
Can't wait to listen to Tandia.
P.S. Humphrey Bower's reading is superb my congratulations to him
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.