I usually like to start each blog with some interesting anecdote, piece of information or exciting idea that captures the readers attention... I have nothing like that for this post. Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One was a very, very well written book with a great plot, amazing characters and a very nice overall moral and story. Unfortunately, there was nothing mind blowing or unbelievably exciting to report so I'll keep this review fairly short.
The book is a relatively recently written novel and has to be a standout in the last 20 years of literature. The novel, a story in three parts about a young boy's life in Africa and his eventual growing into a young man, is one of the two greatest novels of South African literature (the other, the older and also enjoyable Cry, The Beloved Country). The story told from a first person perspective of a young child (5-6ish), an older high school age student, and finally from a young man, paints a beautiful picture of this character's life.
The novel also is quite good for it's historical timeliness. The backdrop for most of the novel is World War II and the inevitable nationalistic views of people from Germany and England is constantly fueling fire to the drama. Add in a racist culture and a large number of local Africans you have an interesting perspective for the story. Perhaps the best part of the whole novel is the author's ability to clearly and beautifully display and layer characters and tell a truly fascinating story about the star Peekay. Besides finishing the book and loving Peekay as a person, you can't help but feel positively about the many well polished and unique individuals that affected Peekay's historic life. Very, very well done.
Unfortunately, the book does have some drawbacks. The biggest being that it starts off quite slow and there are many occasions where one becomes bored easily and the lack of action is distinct. I found myself in more than a few chapters hoping that it would end quickly so another, perhaps more exciting chapter could begin. It's also a pretty long book and it takes a while to get through when reading the non-boxing parts. (Sidenote I should have mentioned above, the boxing scenes/writing are the most enjoyable and quick to go by reading in the book...absolutely great).
Overall, The Power of One is a fairly enjoyable novel that is exhilarating to read when it's moving well and a bit slow to get through at certain times. I wouldn't call it historical fiction, but the backdrop of South Africa during the 1940s and 1950s adds some good depth to the novel. In general, I would suggest any reader pick this up that likes a nicely told, well crafted STORY. I capitalize story as the book's major motivation is to simply tell you the story of Peekay's life and all the wonderful people he meets and great events that happen to him. You can't help but caring for him by the end and you know the author succeeded when that's the end result.