The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world. The story begins when Peekay’s mother has a nervous breakdown, and Peekay ends up being raised by a Zulu wet nurse, Mary Madoma; who eventually becomes his nanny.
Growing up he suffered as the only English boy in an Afrikaans school. On a train ride to Barberton, Peekay meets Hoppie Groenwald, who shows Peekay his boxing gloves. Hoppie is a boxing champion, and he invites Peekay to watch him box during a stop in the ride. It is there that Peekay is inspired to be the welterweight champion of the world.
At Barberton, Peekay sees his mother again. She has returned from the mental institution and converted to being a born-again-Christian. He learns that his mother had left his nanny because she refused to convert. His mother also tries to convert him, but he tells his mother that the Lord is a “shithead.” Retreating to the hills behind his home, Peekay meets a German professor, Karl von Vollensteen, to whom Peekay refers to as “Doc.” Doc is a music professor and collects cacti and has his own cacti garden. Doc and Peekay become close friends, and he offers Peekay piano lessons.
It is not long after WWII begins that Doc is placed in prison for failure to register with the English government as a foreigner. Peekay makes frequent visits and meets Geel Piet, an inmate, who teaches him to box. Geel Piet spreads the myth of the Rainmaker, the one who brings peace to all of the tribes. Peekay is cast in the light of this myth.
After the war Peekay attends an English private school where he continues to box. He meets a young girl, Maria, with whom he falls in love. Her father, Professor Daniel Marais, is a leader of the Nationalist Party of South Africa. The two fight to teach the natives English as Peekay’s popularity grows via the myth. Peekay loses focus until he sees the success of his language school among the tribes. He and Guideon Duma continue the work in hopes of building a better future for Africa.
The power of one has to be the best book I read last year. I haven’t read any other Bryce Courtenay’s but going by it’s reception worldwide this must be one of his best books. The story of Peekay engulfs you and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else throughout the time I was reading the book. His struggles are real even in this day and time with many young people being bullied; his intelligence and ambition captures your attention like a noose round a convicts neck.
I love the flow of the plot, following the main character from such a young age till he finally achieves his dream. The language is simple and doesn’t affect your reading. I hate it when writers rely heavily on big words so as to sound academic, IMO. This kills the flow of the story as most of the readers struggle understanding some of the words and thus hinders their enjoyment of what could be a good story.
The book has been translated into 18 languages, has sold more than 8 million copies and has been made into a Hollywood film. If this doesn’t convince you then get a copy and dive in. Trust me, you won’t regret it.