Thank you: A tribute to Bryce Courtenay

It was the most priceless thing I packed in my suitcase when I departed from Sydney in April 1997, bound for my first overseas adventure.

I was 21. I never knew that travel would become an obsession that never had an end.

His large scrawl was written in black marker on the front page of his novel, The Potato Factory.”

“Bon Voyage Caroline!” Bryce Courtenay

I could not believe it when a friend gave it to me as a farewell present the week before we left. He had chased Bryce down at a book signing in Sydney. It was the first book in the Australian trilogy and I had adored every page twice already.

I held the book to my heart in deepest thanks that Bryce would be making the journey into the unknown with me.

Zanzibar sunset
Zanzibar Sunset

It was his stories that have always held me to my dreams and my ability to tap into the courage I needed to live them.

His first novel, The Power of One, I read as a teenager. I cried almost from the first page to the last. I’ve read it about 13 times, and I never stop learning from it, nor loving it.

The Power of One taught me about freedom, and passion, and fighting for what you believe in. It also taught me about the goodness of man and how small can overcome big.

“The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”

Every word that Bryce ever wrote in his novels had depth and meaning. They stopped me in my tracks and gave me cause to think, to grow, to find meaning and to be better.

His words made me believe in life and living.

“Little beat big when little smart. First with the head, then with the heart.” Giel Peet The Power of One

The Power of One inspired me to visit South Africa to learn more about apartheid and oppression and the coming together as one. It helped me to go there with understanding and an open heart.

With the Australian trilogy, Bryce helped me to fall in love with the story of my own country. How we began from what society deemed as the lowest of all classes, and how many of these convicts managed to overcome some of the harshest conditions on earth to create new lives full of success, abundance, love and happiness.

Your past does not matter, only what you do with the now.

My fascination with the ANZACS burned brightly through Solomon’s Song, and I cried for the bravery of our young soldiers who gave up everything for a cause they really didn’t have a clue about. I cried in thanks for the culture these boys created , showing the rest of the world what Aussies are really made of and what mateship was all about.

It was a story that motivated me all the more to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day in 2003 and helped me find great meaning from it.

And then there were the other novels, I could not put down. Four Fires, which demonstrated the evils of war and the effects it has on society for many years after. It also taught me more about the strength and resilience of the gum tree and what a unique and special part of Australia’s survival it is.

For years and years Bryce’s stories have followed me around the world. The have helped to change the way I think and mould me into the person I have wanted to be. They have enthralled me, captivated me, made me laugh and made me cry.

Bryce Courtenay was a gifted story teller who understood the power of words to affect change and create meaning. Last month he died from stomach cancer. He was 79.  I was him I would have left knowing that I made a difference and made my life count.

My dream was to tell him what he meant to me in person. That chance is gone, but I can do it here.

My precious autographed book is no more. After carrying it around in my backpack for years, it became very well-loved, and then a campground flood in Coffs Harbour one afternoon, washed away the good wishes and tore the book apart.

“Life is all beginnings and ends. Nothing stays the same, lad.” Power of One

Thank your Bryce, for digging deep to discover the stories of the world and bring them to us to inspire, and help us to learn and be better.

Thank you for playing a part in my desire to live passionately and explore deeply.

I’ll miss you.

“I learned that in each of us there burns a flame of independence that must never be allowed to go out. That as long as it exists within us we cannot be destroyed.” Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Have you ever read Byrce Courtenay’s stories? Which ones have had an impact on your life?

Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

4 Comments on “Thank you: A tribute to Bryce Courtenay”

  1. Justine de Jonge


    This is an amazing and beautiful post. I had tears welling up in my eyes from reading it. Thank you for posting it.

    Bryce is one of my most favourite Australian authors. The book closest to my heart, equal with Power of One, is April Fool’s Day.

    One of many memorable quotes from April Fool’s Day was from Damon’s partner Celeste: “Love is an energy, it cannot be created nor destroyed. It simply is. Giving meaning to life and direction to goodness.”

    I was in India and Nepal last month and I only discovered Bryce’s passing when I returned home to Australia. It was such sad news to come back to. But, in a little way, I was glad that I was out travelling in this big, bright world discovering many more stories from afar at the time – one thing Bryce had inspired me to do so many, many years ago.

    I hope to one day travel to his South Africa, a pilgrimage of sorts in the name of such an influential writer. However, I will miss his massive tomes of stories dearly.

  2. Beautiful piece Caz. In my humble opinion, your writing just gets better and better.
    Johanna recently posted..Amazing Western Australia 2012 Highlights in 113 Pictures.
    Johanna recently posted..Amazing Western Australia 2012 Highlights in 113 Pictures.

  3. I read the power of one as a teenager too, and remember it having a deep impact on me – certainly one of the most powerful books I’d read up to that point and probably the first book I ever cried at. Such a great story – love that we have that in common :)
    Laurence recently posted..Swinging through the tree tops with @GetYourGuide
    Laurence recently posted..Swinging through the tree tops with @GetYourGuide

  4. Love this. Agreed — The Power of One is such an amazing book!
    Susan @ Travel Junkette recently posted..Finding Hippie Heaven on Egypt’s Coast
    Susan @ Travel Junkette recently posted..Finding Hippie Heaven on Egypt’s Coast

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