The Power of One: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

One of my all-time favorite novels about a young man growing up in South Africa during WWII. Great storytelling. — Erik Barnum

The Power of One carried with it by way of recommendation a reputation for being inspirational, for living up to its title and theme of the absolute power of the individual to impact the world and those around them. And it frequently does that through a uniquely unvarnished tale of a young boy's tortured boarding school upbringing in South Africa amidst the cruel political, ethnic and racial divisions there in the post-Boer War, early WWII era that it inhabits. The violence is immediate and disturbing, the protagonist's rise to prominence both inspiring and occasionally fantastical. The racism depicted is brutal, cruel and disturbing; the narrator's (or could it be the author's?) occasional unintended racism, in perpetuating notions of assumed intellectual inferiority and servility amongst the black South African people, can be somewhat horrifying as well.

— Jon Fine


“The Power of One has everything: suspense, the exotic, violence; mysticism, psychology and magic; schoolboy adventures, drama.”
–The New York Times

“Unabashedly uplifting . . . asserts forcefully what all of us would like to believe: that the individual, armed with the spirit of independence–‘the power of one’–can prevail.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer

In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams–which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.

“Totally engrossing . . . [presents] the metamorphosis of a most remarkable young man and the almost spiritual influence he has on others . . . Peekay has both humor and a refreshingly earthy touch, and his adventures, at times, are hair-raising in their suspense.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Marvelous . . . It is the people of the sun-baked plains of Africa who tug at the heartstrings in this book. . . . [Bryce] Courtenay draws them all with a fierce and violent love.”
–The Washington Post Book World


“A compelling tale.”
–The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Bryce Courtenay was born in South Africa, is an Australian, and has
lived in Sydney for the major part of his life. Visit him on the web at

Praise For…

The Power of One has everything: suspense, the exotic, violence; mysticism, psychology and magic; schoolboy adventures, drama in the boxing ring.”
The New York Times

Product Details
ISBN: 9780345410054
ISBN-10: 034541005X
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 29th, 1996
Pages: 544
Language: English
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