By Byrce Courtenay
No stranger to the injustice of racial hatred, five-year-old Peekay learns the hard way the first secret of survival and self-preservation – the power of one. An encounter with amateur boxer Hoppie Groenewald inspires in Peekay a fiery ambition – to be welterweight champion of the world.
This isn’t the summary of the film tie-in version I was borrowed to read. In that one we learn the setting is in Africa in the 1940’s. Considering my age and when the book was first published in 1989 (provided that Wikipedia is correct), I found it hard to understand who was black and who was white to begin with. I did gather that the main character Peekay was white, but they had so many different descriptions for what I think are the blacks of Africa that I was a confused: Kaffir, Boer, Afrikaner . . . I didn’t know who belonged to where, but it was a minor issue of the story.
I really quite enjoyed reading The Power of One, albeit it was a bit lengthy, and almost felt like there was no plot at some stage. I just don’t think it was the life lesson type of book it wanted to be. You get the feeling from the title that it’s going to be about one boy pushing against an adversity to win all by himself (here I am getting all English class on y’all 😛 ), but in truth Peekay has an insane amount of help to achieve his goals. Everywhere he goes he meets people who help him – perhaps this is showing his power is charisma?
I liked the ending and I didn’t. There are very mixed feelings on Goodreads (of course haha) and I’m afraid I fall into the category of people who, on the whole, didn’t like the ending. I felt it tied in the seemingly vague plot well, especially considering he doesn’t actually achieve his life long goal by the end of the book.
But I also thought it showed readers that Peekay, despite all his education and life experience, hasn’t grown at all from the young boy he was when the story starts. I feel like Byrce could have kept the ending, but reined Peekay in before he went too far.
Would I read this again? Probably not. It was a long novel and much of it, I feel, wasn’t necessary to the plot. I don’t regret reading it and I certainly didn’t give up. And man, it’s the first novel to make me feel sad about a character dying in ages.
Also, where the heck did Hoppie go? I can’t believe Peekay didn’t meet up with him again.
Has anyone read it? Thoughts?
-Jo Carter 🙂