Who wrote this book and when?
Bryce Courtenay published this in 1989.
Has there been a film version?
Yes, starring Stephen Dorff, Morgan Freeman, Daniel Craig, and John Gielgud. It came out in 1992 and was different from the book – the author cleaned up the story a bit so that it could be seen by children. It’s still pretty intense at some parts though.
Who are the important characters?
Peekay – an English boy growing up in South Africa and Rhodesia who is often bullied
The Judge – a brutish German boy who goes to school with Peekay and renames him “Pisskop”
Grampa Chook – Peekay’s rooster
Hoppie Groenewald – a railway man and a champion boxer
Doc – a German musician who loves cacti
Geel Piet – an inmate in the prison near where Peekay lives, knows a tremendous amount about boxing
Morrie Levy – Peekay’s best friend at Prince of Wales school, a Jew
Rasputin – a huge Russian who works the mines
What’s it about?
This is the story of a small boy who learns the power of one in Southern Africa. Peekay has a hard life right from the start: his mother has a nervous breakdown and he is sent to a boarding school where he is the only English child amongst German children…right at the start of WWII. He is brutally tortured, and his only friend is a chicken named Grampa Chook. This sets the tone for the rest of Peekay’s growing-up years. He continually is on guard and tries to stay camouflaged so as to not be picked on. After meeting a champion boxer on the way to live with his grandfather, Peekay decides his life goal will be to become the welterweight boxing champion of the world. As his life progresses, he suffers losses and learns what it means to believe in yourself and find the power of one inside of you and others around you.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s an inspiring story out of Africa.
Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes yes yes yes yes. And then watch the movie.
How did this book make my list?
The movie version is one of my favorite movies and I didn’t know it was a book. So when I saw it at the LL, I freaked and checked it out immediately.
Has it won any awards?
I don’t think so.
“This is what happened.” – p 1 (Great opening line…)
“Deep inside me the loneliness bird laid a large stone egg.” – p 31
“The indigo night was pricked with sharp cold stars.” – p 257
“It was also the year South Africa got white bread, an event which excited a lot more people than catching a glimpse of the future queen of England.” – p 415
There is a sequel to this book I am going to try my hardest to find before I head off to Georgia.
The movie version of this book is on of my favorites, and as usual, the book does not disappoint. In fact – per the usual – it’s better. Peekay is an incredible character, his narrative placing you exactly into his tackies (shoes) and sometimes even throwing you into the boxing ring with him as he fights people twice his size. We laugh with him and share in his triumphs, but also feel his grief at the death of friends and puzzlement at the inconsistencies in justice in the world. This book is incredible. There is lesson after lesson shared while framed against the backgrounds of world wars, apartheid, struggle, and peace.