The Power of One

The Power of One. Yet Another Literary Blog Post.

May 27, 2020

A friend brought me The Power of One to read after surgery.

I had absolutely no idea who Bryce Courtenay was at the time – which is odd, since I have been a voracious reader for my entire life.   And I had never even heard of The Power of One.  I started reading early and the amount of words that I consume every single day is in the tens of thousands.  Sometimes it’s the news, sometimes it’s fiction, sometimes it’s learning a new skill.

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When I was a kid, I would sometimes read the encyclopedia.  I think I mentioned that we had Colliers, not World Book, and we got those super cool year books every spring to add to the bookcase that was a freebie when my mother bought the set.  The books were matte black, and way nicer looking than the World Book, at least in my opinion.

Moving along — I broke my foot, years ago, although it doesn’t really seem like it was that long, under the current circumstances, and in the end, the foot would not heal on its own and I had to have the surgeon go in and clean out the messy corona (did you know the tissue that forms around the break is called a corona?), and then install a plate and some pins.  Titanium, although they looked like you could pick them up at the hardware store for pennies, that’s not what they cost when they are going to live inside your body.

So there I was, no tuna, no mayonnaise, just stuck at home with nothing to do.

At least for a few days, until I hopped on a plane to make a client visit, against the doctors orders.  And I read this book.  The Power of One.  Talk about a game changer.  It’s been one of my favorite books ever since then, and I read it again every few years.  I think I’ve read it four times now; and I’ve read other Bryce Courtenay novels since then as well.

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The book is truly amazing, especially for one that is more than 500 pages in total.  It is mesmerizing, a quick read, and I can’t recommend it enough.  The pages seem to fly by in rapid succession and you will literally want to devour the words straight off the page.

Get on with the part about the book, please.

The tale starts out simply, in 1939.  There is a British speaking (read: white) boy living in South Africa, and his mother has a nervous breakdown.  The boy is sent to boarding school at a young age, which is not uncommon (even today) for children from Britain or the former British colonies.  And this boy, Peekay, well, he’s a bedwetter, for starters.  So you can imagine how that worked out for him at school.

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Later in The Power of One, Peekay meets Inkosi-Inkosikazi, and Hoppie Groenwald, and Karl von Vollensteen.  And World War 2 happens, and in the middle of all of this, Peekay decides that he’s going to be the welterweight boxing champion of the world.

And of course, as in all well written books, there is an antagonist, and he keeps returning to the story.  He is called the Judge, and he appears in the story throughout the course of the book.  To say anything more would be to give away parts of the story; this is certainly a story that does not deserve any sort of spoiler alert.

When I was reading The Power of One the first time – laid up at home with a plaster and metal cast thing running from my knee to my toes, I was struck by how honestly written the book turns out to be.  I could go all Hallmark on you and say that it’s a heartwarming tale of a young boy cast as an outsider who learns to love himself and becomes a fine, upstanding young man who takes his place in modern society.


Or I could just suggest that you read the damn book.  The Power of One is worth the time it takes.  I am betting you will love it!


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