June 20, 2013

The Third Son by Julie Wu



The Third Son by Julie Wu
Publisher: Algonquin Books 
Publication Date: April 2013
Categories: Literary, Historical, Taiwan

Description:

In the middle of a terrifying air raid in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Saburo, the least-favored son of a Taiwanese politician, runs through a peach forest for cover. It’s there that he stumbles upon Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.

Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—and the fast-changing American West of the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Third Son is a richly textured story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.

In Saburo, debut author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character who is determined to fight for everything he needs and wants, from food to education to his first love. A sparkling and moving story, it will have readers cheering for a young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.

My Thoughts:

Once I started reading The Third Son I couldn't stop. When I absolutely had to get up I found myself walking and reading at the same time.

This book contained some of my favorite things to read about; a bit of politics, a lot of Asian culture, and a historical setting. Win, win, win! It was also a quick read, which is surprising when you consider the heavy subject matter.

Saburo is a wonderful protagonist with a convincing voice. There are few people that treat him well. He is constantly hungry as the best rations go to his older brothers. He is often bruised from being beaten with a stick of bamboo. But there is a small voice of optimism inside of Saburo that keeps him going.

My favorite scenes in this novel are when Saburo arrives in America for the first time. He is intelligent and curious and it was delightful to read these scenes in which his naivete and innocence come to the fore.

If I had one problem it was with the secondary characters that can come across as one dimensional.  The destructive actions of some of Saburo's family members are hard to understand and seem to be purely evil. On the other hand, some of those characters sure are fun to hate!

I absolutely recommend The Third Son. Wholeheartedly.
About Julie Wu


After graduating from Harvard with a BA in literature, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Julie Wu received an MD at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She has received a writing grant from the Vermont Studio Center and is the recipient of a 2012 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship.
For more information about Julie, please refer to Anna Wu’s interview on taiwaneseamerican.org

46 comments:

  1. Okay, I'm convinced! Adding this to my list now.

    I'm especially intrigued by the setting -- not sure I've ever read a book set in Taiwan, which is a little sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to hear! The setting/time period were both great to read about.

      Delete
  2. Oooo I'm intrigued by the mention of the space program! Sounds really interesting :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know nothing about that time period and would love to read about it. I bet I'd learn a lot from this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I definitely learned a lot from this one :)

      Delete
  4. This sounds excellent. I was so tempted when it popped up on NetGalley... now I'll have to get it in print.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you do JoAnn! I really, really enjoyed this book!

      Delete
  5. Sibling relationships are always interesting and they are even more so when they are set in a time and place in history that we don't know much about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Being the third son in this family was not easy. Poor kid was basically useless, according to his family anyway.

      Delete
  6. Oooh! I love books that force me to read while I'm walking. I'm not very good at it, but I like being compelled to do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to be very careful of walls and such ;)

      Delete
  7. This sounds like another powerful read! I will have to keep my eye out for this one. Glad to hear that the reading flowed easily despite the heavy subject matter. I love when you learn and enjoy a book at the same time! Great review!
    Happy Reading,
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rebecca! Informative and enjoyable, exactly my kind of book :)

      Delete
  8. I've been wanting to read this (gahhhh so many good books!) and now that I've seen your review I really, really want to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't think I've read anything set in Taiwan! This sounds awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if I ever had before this either. It IS awesome :) A total gem!

      Delete
  10. I read this back in January and Saburo captured my heart. Beautiful debut and also a lovely review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks :D I'm really looking forward to whatever she writes next!

      Delete
  11. I have this from netgalley too, I've been umm-ing and ahh-ing over whether I actually want to read it, but your review has convinced me! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great! Can't wait to hear what you think of it Sam!

      Delete
  12. Sounds great....and I just had a spot free up on my holds list at the library (yes, I had met my limit there!). I'm putting my request in for this book right now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if I've ever hit the limit, lol. In fact, I'm not sure if my library has a limit! I hope this one comes for you soon :)

      Delete
  13. Probably a bit dark for me right now but when I'm ready this sounds excellent! Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's honestly not as dark as you'd think, but I totally understand :) Thanks!

      Delete
  14. Ohhhm this sounds really interesting! The time period isn't something that's covered a lot in books so this should be nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very true. Hallelujah for learning through reading!!

      Delete
  15. Even though I'm a history teacher, my 20th century non-US background is definitely lacking and I'm always looking for books to weave in a bit (the easy way, I admit it!). This sounds great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's one of the best things about reading. We can learn all we want! It never has to end, yay!

      Delete
  16. Did you read while brushing your teeth or doing dishes? That's my true definition of an irresistible book! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. You've sold me on this book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jennifer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's my pleasure :) I hope you do get to this and enjoy it as much I as did!

      Delete
  18. Just picked this one up on NetGalley. Thanks for a wonderful review! I can't wait to read.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I *should* know this history but I don't, so I'm going to have to find out more about the book, see if it's to be/has been published here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might be able to still find it on Netgalley :)

      Delete
  20. This one sounds wonderful. I will have to check it out. I like the impact the book had on you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a fantastic read Athira :) Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  21. I've read some really great reviews of this one!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Obviously I liked this one too!! I've read a lot of historical fiction about war, but mainly the civil war, or wars in Europe. This one was something different, to read about the war in Taiwan. I also found Saburo's story to be inspiring, he was such a courageous young boy (and later, a courageous and inspiring man). I loved reading it, I wish the book was longer, so Toru and Yoshiko's characters could develop more, but I still enjoyed this very much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wished it was longer too! I didn't want to say goodbye to the characters :)

      Delete