Issue 12’s Review
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (1989)
A review by editor Dylan Dartnell (this review can be found in issue 12: Small and Potent)
Set in South Africa, The Power of One surrounds the character of Peekay during the closing years of WWII and well into the apartheid years following. We are first introduced to Peekay as a five year old boarding school student who is horrifically taunted for his English heritage. Amongst a school of Afrikaners, the young boy suffers a daily torture at the hands of the older students, but more so by the Swastika-tattooed Judge and his league of ‘stormtroopers’, who themselves, are only six years old. As the story progresses and the antagonist ages, it is made apparent that Peekay is very aware of the racism that underpins his world and how he positions himself, and others, in the social pecking order. Racism is a questionable ideology even to the likes of a five year old.
Despite the confronting realities of racism that are founded within the story, Courtenay has also incorporated a beautiful counter-balance. The ‘coming of age’ component that drives this literary masterpiece allows the reader to witness a very real growth in maturity as Peekay ascends into adulthood. Each established relationship marks the incremental climb in Peekay’s development and shines a great importance on the power of positive role models; a great life lesson for the younger generation amongst us.
And when we set out to accomplish something, remember this