The Third Son by Julie Wu

The-Third-Son1I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Third Son, is a historical novel written by Julie Wu, which tells the story of an eight year old boy called Saburo. Saburo is the third son of a politician and also the least favoured who lives on the island, Taoyan (Taiwan) during the 1943’s when the Chinese Nationalist took over as rulers of the island.

Saburo is a smart boy and eager to learn, yet his family does not recognise that.  As the protagonist, he shares his thoughts that his family, especially his mother blames him for the death of his younger brother.  His mother is very strict and unloving towards him, as is his father and eldest brother and he gets beaten regularly. She also withhold education from him for the sake of his two older brothers , Kazuo and Jiro, as she believes he is holding them back.  Saburo, who his parents think stupid, is everything but. He is intelligent, inquisitive, intuitive and has his own way of learning.

The only person in his family that he has a good relationship with is his cousin Toru, who is a doctor and gives him good advice and motivates him to make something of himself. Saburo, teaches himself and studies hard.  He marries his childhood love, Yoshiko and has a son. When he passes the exam, that allows him to go study in America, he takes the opportunity and believes that this will win the love and admiration of his family, but it doesn’t.

Saburo wants to study engineering, but later changes his mind to study pharmacy, because that’s what his family wants. After reading his wife’s letters to him and learning how badly his family is treating his wife and son, he decides against it. He will study what he wants, and he is determined to make it, in his own way. To free himself from his legacy and to fight for what he wants: to be an engineer and to be a good parent.

I really enjoyed reading this novel.  I finished it in a short amount of time, I must have spend about 8 hours (or less) on it.  I found Saburo to be a gentle soul, a son who is yearning to the love of his family, especially his parents, but never gets it.  I find myself being sympathetic towards him and quite happy when he finally stands up against his father for his disrespect, inconsideration and discrimination, just like he did with his mother.  To learn about the culture in those days were great too, I find it difficult to comprehend that the first son gets all the advantages, whether he deserves it or not. This story is emotional and touching and I highly recommend it.

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  • I liked this book a lot as well, but I felt it was falling flat as the second part rolled around. I didn’t find myself that interested in his experience in America. My favourite part of the story was when he was in Taiwan, I thought the writing was beautiful during that part, but then the story started to become flat in the second part. Toru was such a great character and I wish there was a bit more about him in the story. Also I kind of felt like Yoshiko (I think that was her name) didn’t develop that much during the second part. It’s not that she was a bad character, but I wanted to learn more about her.

    Great Review Melinda 🙂

    • Thank you!
      I think the author concentrated on developing Saburo and his ambitions. I do feel that I wanted to story to continue, but I enjoyed it because it was a quick read and engaging. I loved the part when he was in Taiwan too, it was sad, but reading about his experience in America was nice too. I’m glad you enjoyed the book too 🙂

  • Sounds very interesting!

    • It was for me, to read about that culture 🙂

  • It sounds like a beautiful story, thanks for the tip, I will be writing this title down. I always admire people who have the courage to follow their own path.

    Kind regards,

    • Me too! (Admiration for people’s courage)

      I hope you enjoy it Bettina.

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book Melinda, I certainly did!

  • I saw this book and decided against it at that time but reading your review spikes my interest again. And that cover is lovely!

    • Yeah the cover is really nice! Too bad, you should have requested it 🙂

  • Great review, Melinda! I have this one on my list to read and review. Now I can’t wait to get into it. I’m drawn to stories of courage, ambition, perseverance. All words I think of as you describe Saburo.

    • Thanks Sherrey. I do hope you enjoy it. It will be a quick read, maybe even an afternoon read if you are a quick reader.

      Saburo did have a lot of ambition and courage. I do admire that in a person.

  • Thanks for the recommendation. I just love stories that are from different cultures. They are so interesting!

    • Yes, it was definitely interesting to read about the culture in those days. It was also the first time reading about the war in the east. Usually most of the historical fiction I read is about the civil war in Europe.

  • Isi

    Looks very interesting, and I feel sorry for the main characters because he couldn’t do what he wanted because of the culture he was born in 🙁

    • I felt sorry for him too 🙁 I just couldn’t comprehend that situation fully, but I accept that is what the culture was in that time (and place)

  • I’m a little behind on commenting, so I apologize for my delay, but I’ve seen great things about this book over the past week and the fact that you are recommending it means I might actually read it 🙂

    • It’s ok, I know you support me either way 🙂

      This book was a breath of fresh air, so different then what I normally read. Quite enjoyable!

  • The Third Son sounds like a great read. Thanks for the recommendation. i am going to add it to my to read list!

    • It was really enjoyable and an easy read. Hope you will like it too!

  • This seems like a wonderful historical novel. Saburo sounds quite likeable. 🙂

    • He is, I liked him most too

  • Emotional and touching stories I can easily relate to. I like that the author gave the main character some depth from what I can read from your review. As always, thanks for sharing your beautiful review 🙂

    • Thanks Celeste. It was refreshing to read some historical fiction in a different setting – Taiwan! That cover also attracted me 🙂