Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Power of One - Bryce Courtnenay (1990)

4 stars

I adore Bryce Courtenay, (as you may be able to tell from my rave about April Fool's Day.) So when I saw a copy of this book at a friend's house, I couldn't resist begging to borrow it. It's been sitting on my pile of to-be-reads for a while and I decided to take it with me on holiday. It is set in South Africa during WW2, holding a lot of incomprehensible slang. Sadly, I only found the glossary once I finished. The edition I read was a children's edition, and at the end was a note that it was only part of the story. So I shall have to read the rest one day.

Peekay is a little kid, raised by his black Nanny. His mother has mental issues and in a recession, he is sent to a boarding school. Being the only European kid, he is bullied constantly. He is given the name Pisskop - which translates to piss head in English. He tweaks it to Peekay. He is sent home one holiday and the conductor Hoppie befriends him. Hoppie takes him to watch him box, and despite being a complete underdog - he wins. This then sends Peekay onto a path to yearning to excel at boxing. He does very well at school because of the mixed classes at boarding school. He stays with his mother and makes friends with a German professor. The German professor is arrested for treason which is eventually downgraded to lack of citizenship. Peekay visits him constantly and joins the prison boxing squad. After a couple of years, he is allowed to compete. He is victorious despite his small size. He also helps prisoners get letters to their families in secret, as he knows a variety of South African languages. Because of his academic excellence he earns a scholarship to an prestigious boarding school (and this is where the young reader's edition ends...)

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