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.