Well, it’s 10AM on Friday morning, which means I should probably start writing this week’s blog entry.
To be fair, though, I’ve been thinking about it all week. Obviously, I think about books a lot, but I was trying to decide if I wanted these entries to be about books I’m reading now or about “legacy” books; books I’ve loved and read a lot. I think I’m going to go with the latter, which is why I can at last say that this week I will be reviewing “The Power of One”, by Bryce Courtnay.
I first encountered “The Power of One” when I was in grade six, and we did not get off to a good start. It was the last day of classes, and instead of reading the last few chapters of “The Chrysalids” out loud, our teacher decided we would watch a movie with another class down the hall. The movie was the adaptation of “The Power of One”, and I was mostly angry because I wasn’t even allowed to go out in the hall and read to myself, and I really wanted to know what happened at the end of “The Chrysalids”. Needless to say, I did not give the movie a fair shake.
It was about a year before I read the book, after casually mentioning it to my sister (at the time, I didn’t even know it was a book), at which point she said it was her favourite book ever, so I read it. At 12, there was a lot I didn’t really understand, even having seen the movie, but over the years I have come to really appreciate what the book was trying to tell me.
First with the head, then with the heart. So says Hoppie Groenewald to a young boy with dreams of being the welter-weight champion of the world.
It’s pretty good advice, really. And as you read the book and watch Peekay discover what he wants, you realize how very plausible everything is, even though the scope of the novel is SO ENORMOUS that sometimes even thinking about it makes me want to curl into a ball and never pick up a pen for the rest of my life.
We follow Peekay from his days of utter and violent non-belonging as the only English boy at a school for Boers, through his tempestuous and complicated life as he tries to figure out who he is. Usually, I am not a fan of Boy Coming Of Age stories (and this story also has very few female characters, which is another unusual thing for me), but this one is just SO THICK that I don’t care. I’d love to tell you more, but this is a book to be EXPERIENCED and I wouldn’t want to take any of that away from you by telling you how I reacted to things (but if you’ve read it, feel free to comment and we can discuss it all you like!).
There are so many layers to this book. At 12, I was really able to get the basic plot and the characters (and the injustice, oh, THE INJUSTICE!), but the nuance and the brilliance of the story behind all that mostly went over my head. Every time I read this book, it’s a revelation, and every time I read this book, I love it even more*.
Every place I have ever been (since 1998), I have had a copy of this book on hand. It, along with “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”, have traveled with me to England, Jordan, Korea, the US and Alberta. It has shaped my views on religion, science, politics, violence, injustice, friendship**, destiny and work ethic (and probably boxing, if we’re honest).
OH, and before I forget: if you do read it, DON’T read the book jacket. Or the blurb on Chapters (the Amazon one is a bit better, but you could always avoid that too…). They really don’t do the book justice, and in at least one case, take a lot of the impact out of the ending***.
*I did not, however, enjoy the sequel, “Tandia”. I mean, I get it, but I’m happy to have left “The Power of One” where it ended, because it has one of the most AMAZING ends of ALL TIME.
**we were talking about why I like Friedrich Bhaer more than I like Teddy Lawrence in “Little Women”. This book is why. Well, this and “Heidi”.
***Unrelated, but this is also the case for the Teen version of “Ender’s Game”, except the blurb COMPLETELY BLOWS the ending and, WOW, is that stupid.