Bowdoin Reads

Professor Horch is reading...

The Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay

Having recently traveled to Cape Town, I was interested in reading something by a South African writer. While Coetzee and Gordimer are on my list, I started with The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. This is a coming of age story about a boy growing up in South Africa around the time of World War II. It is a compelling story that is at turns difficult, exhilerating, and thought-provoking. Courtenay's epic story touches on bullying at a boarding school, racism, violence, the thrill of learning, boxing, mining, gambling, music, and friendship. As one boy struggles to understand who he is and what he is capable of, he is shaped by a number of formative events and remarkable people. It is not a perfect novel, and I struggled at times to reconcile the conceit of the "power of one" with how central friendships were in shaping this growing boy. In particular, there are some touching portrayals of inter-generational friendships that I enjoyed reading about. In the end, it was exciting to read as I traveled, and it added another dimension to everything I was learning about the complexities of modern South Africa.

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