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It’s 1943 as air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo is in no hurry to go home to the abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the peach forests of Taoyuan, he encounters Yoshiko, whose loving family is like a glimpse of paradise for him. Their brief meeting is a memory he cherishes from that moment forward, and for years after he tries to locate her again. But when he finally does, she is by the side of his eldest ...
It’s 1943 as air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo is in no hurry to go home to the abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the peach forests of Taoyuan, he encounters Yoshiko, whose loving family is like a glimpse of paradise for him. Their brief meeting is a memory he cherishes from that moment forward, and for years after he tries to locate her again. But when he finally does, she is by the side of his eldest brother and greatest rival.
As the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island after the war, Saburo bravely struggles to break free of the future assigned him by heritage and circumstance and to go in search of new frontiers.
“Narrator David Shih captures the many accents perfectly. . . . Recommended for fans of coming-of-age sagas and fiction set in Asia.”
Verdict Recommended for fans of coming-of-age sagas and fiction set in Asia.—Susan Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL
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Posted May 25, 2013
What a fascinating story -- and how refreshing to find a first-person narrative that so convincingly carries the resonance of reality! I felt completely enmeshed in Saburo's world from the first scene: his story is told much like how a real person who has lead a fascinating life would actually tell his own story has had me recommending this book to random strangers in bookstores.
Why? Well, even very good character-based fiction set against the backdrop of great social and political upheaval will stray from the protagonist's private world in a way that can feel extraneous to the experience of someone who actually lived through those events.
In THE THIRD SON, though, the narrative gives those events the precise heft they would have realistically had in Saburo's life. A childhood encounter with a snake leaps off the page with nightmare vividness. A change in political regime is depicted primarily through the suddenly arbitrary actions of the protagonist's schoolteacher. An act of kindness leaps out as the only thing that's important to remember about a particular year. It's an especially effective tactic in the early chapters, where our little hero encounters some pretty disturbing abuse.
The overall effect? The reader enjoys the unusual pleasure of feeling as though she's eavesdropping directly upon his memories. And isn't that one of the great tests of first-person fiction, ultimately?
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Posted January 25, 2014
This is a well written book that has the sound of a biography. It doesn't always give the motivation behind the main characters actions, just that they were done, in the way that most people make decisions. It is quite a good coming of age story with maybe a bit more extremes of lows than a normal life. The addition of the history of Taiwan adds a lot of character to the story. I'm definitely glad I read it!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2013
A fascinating view of Taiwan.
I had never read any literature from Taiwan and Julie Wu did not disappoint.
The narrative begins in 1943, towards the end of the 50 year rule of Taiwan by the Japanese. Suddenly Saburo must change his Japanese name back to the Chinese, Tong Chialin. All the Japanese school books are removed from the classes and replaced by Chinese ones.
Saburo is the third son of a Taiwanese family and this, combined with the fact that he was caring for his younger brother when he died, means that his share of everything, food love and education, is reduced to the bare minimum. If it weren't for the care of his cousin, Toru, who is a doctor, he would probably have died of malnutriton.
It was during the bombing of their town by American bombers, that 8 year old Saburo meets Yoshiko. She is fleeing the bullets from a jet plane, protected by just her writng board above her head. She describes her family, and for the first time Saburo becomes aware that there are such things as happy families.
Although his schooling is intermittent, Saburo is a determined scholar. He sees education as a way out of his situation. But how far can a downtrodden young Taiwanese lad go without the support of his family?
As I had hoped, this was not just a story of a young Taiwanese boy, although this part was well done - it was also an insight into the life and and experiences of the people in that time and place. I have definitely learned a lot about the country through reading this and hope that the author will go on to write other books set in Taiwan.