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Article  •  9 November 2022


A guide to Bryce Courtenay’s most beloved books

Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller is a memoir of Australia’s most beloved writer, written by his wife Christine Courtenay. Bryce Courtenay wrote twenty-one books in twenty-three years, and this candid, loving tribute reveals the man behind the books. But where should you start with Bryce’s work?

Bryce Courtenay’s rags-to-riches life story reads like one of his novels. Before he became the famous author we know today, Bryce started from humble beginnings in South Africa. After an impoverished childhood he worked his way to a posh boarding school in Johannesburg, then later down the dangerous mines of Rhodesia to fund his dream of studying journalism in London. Upon completing his degree he sailed to Sydney, and knew instantly he had found his new home.

In Australia Bryce married, raised a family and carved a dazzling career as a creative director in the Mad Men world of advertising, known for his award-winning campaigns such as Louie the Fly and the Milky Bar Kid. But he never lost sight of his dream to be a writer.

Bryce Courtenay’s first book, The Power of One was published in 1989 and went on to became an international bestseller and the subject of a Hollywood movie. He went on to write another twenty books, most of which are set in either South Africa or Australia. Bryce relentlessly championed his books and dedicated twelve hours per day to writing. During his lifetime, his books sold more than 20 million copies.

All of Bryce Courtenay’s books are winners, but here’s a list of three of his most popular novels you may like to re-read or discover for the first time. Then learn about the extraordinary man himself with the story of his life and work, Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller, as told by Christine Courtenay and available now in print, e-book and audio formats. Just like Bryce’s novels, it delivers, ‘a bucketful of tears and a bellyful of laughs’.

Must-read Bryce Courtenay Books

The Power of One Bryce Courtenay

Peekay is a seven-year-old boy who dreams of being a world champion. Born in a South Africa divided by racism and hate, he will come to lead the tribes of Africa in a fight to the death for justice. Triumphant, spellbinding, and inspirational, you won’t soon forget the lessons that lie between the pages. First with your head and then with your heart . . . 

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Jessica Bryce Courtenay

Set in the Australian bush at the outbreak of World War I, Jessica is based on the true story of a young girl’s fight for justice against tremendous odds. On one fateful day, the peace of the bush is disrupted by a terrible murder. Only Jessica can save the killer from the lynch mob, but it’s up to the courts to decide whether justice prevails. Nine months later, a baby is born. As she guards the identity of the father, Jessica and her sister rival for the love of the same man until the truth must come out.

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Tandia Bryce Courtenay

As a young teenager, half-African, half-Indian Tandia is attacked and violated by the South African police. She becomes consumed by hatred for white men, seeking refuge in a brothel where she learns to use her mind and looks as weapons for the battles that lie ahead. While training as a terrorist she meets Peekay, a man with a past as complicated as her own. With mixed relationships outlawed, however, their growing love can only lead to severe consequences.

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Jack Of Diamonds Bryce Courtenay

Bryce’s last book, Jack of Diamonds is a sweeping tale that traverses three continents. Born during the great depression in the slums of Cabbagetown, Toronto, there was little hope for Jack. But when he’s offered a ticket out of town in the form of a harmonica, Jack uses music to make his escape. His rare talent eventually leads him to Las Vegas until he’s forced to flee when his relations with the Mob turn sour. When he finally reaches safety in the far reaches of Africa, Jack discovers a rare and valuable bird that may seal his fate and the love of an unexpected woman.

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Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller Christine Courtenay

If you want to learn more about the man behind the novels, then Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller is a must-read. Told by his wife, this long-awaited memoir tracks the success of his extraordinary debut and the epic career that followed. Fittingly, Bryce’s life reads like a rags-to-riches tale, complete with all the big themes – overcoming adversity, loss, love, hard-won success, fame and fortune, and holding tight to a dream.

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