It actually took me a while to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. Utah Dad and I recently borrowed the first four seasons of Seinfeld on DVD from our neighbors. The last three weeks, we've spent the evenings vegging in front of the TV with some nostalgic laughter. Since my usual reading time was used up, I had to find snippets of time to read such as while I was waiting in the car in front of the school, in the bathroom, or the five minutes my kids were playing without fighting. In spite of that, I really enjoyed the novel.
The Power of One is the story of Peekay, a young boy growing up in South Africa during World War II. After being tormented by an older bully and his stooges during his initial year of boarding school (why would anyone send their small children to boarding school--if you've been exposed to any literature at all you know boarding school is clearly a horrible experience at best), six-year-old Peekay determines to become the welter-weight boxing champion of the world. With hard work and mentoring from some unique and genuine individuals, Peekay is driven by his ultimate goals. In the meantime, Peekay transcends local racial strife to become beloved by all races in South Africa. Peekay is a true "outlier" as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. He is also likable and great fun to cheer on.
The writing is splendid. In a single scene, Courtenay takes the reader through a multitude of emotions without feeling manipulated. The book is full of humor, love, sorrow, pain and joy and still doesn't feel contrived. The characters are unique and intriguing--Peekay is coached, taught and enlightened by the grizzled African criminal; the German ex-patriot professor of music and the beautiful Jewish intellectual. People are simply drawn to Peekay's sincerity, determination and potential. He is fiercely loyal to those he loves. There is something magical about this boy.
The setting is exotic and teaming with stories of racism, adventures and chances. Courtenay is, quite simply, a natural and gifted story teller.