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The Third Act by John Wilson

The Third Act

by John Wilson

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
3.5 stars

In current day, Tone, girlfriend Theresa, and friend/roommate Pike all came from China to go to university in the US. Tone is passionate about physics and has just gotten word that he is receiving a prize for his work/research and will be able to continue that research at MIT. He would like his actress girlfriend to come with him, but she’s just gotten a part that she thinks will open things up for her career in theatre. Pike is only where he is because it’s where his father wants him to be, doing what his father wants him to be doing. His father supports him, so he has money to burn, but he isn’t putting in the work.

Meanwhile, in 1937, Nanjing, China, there is a war going on. The Japanese have captured the city of Nanjing, but there has been a “Safety Zone” set up. Chinese-born, Lily is there, along with the American man she loves, playwright Neil Peterson (though he could go home, he wants to stay), and Hill, who wants to find his older brother, a soldier in the war.

The chapters alternate between the time periods. The play in the current day portion is the third act of a play Peterson never finished, about his time in 1937 China. It took me a bit of time to get interested, but once I did, it was quick to read and quite interesting. There wasn’t as much about the historical portion as I might have liked, though admittedly, I was a bit more interested in the current-day portion, anyway. Our three current-day protagonists are trying to find their way in a new culture, and are feeling like they are losing their own culture in the process. The end was a definite surprise! ( )
  LibraryCin | Oct 8, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I honestly loved reading this. It was fun, thrilling, and even fast-paced, the majority of the time. Would I change anything? Not at all. It was beautifully written for the history aspect of it and held my attention. Which is very surprising because I can never have my attention grabbed by history related books.

The cover of this little novel is really cool. I like how they have a faded ‘ghost of the past’ on the cover. I actually didn’t realize that it was there until I was about halfway through with the book. The plotline was one that I wasn’t sure I was going to like at first. But as I kept reading, the history of the Nanjing Massacre and the switching from the past to the present, drew my attention in like a mouse to cake crumbs. The characters weren’t as developed, but it worked for this storyline. ( )
  BBauer1 | Sep 3, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In The Third Act, John Wilson offers a contemporary and historical examination of the choices we make and the motives that drive them. In modern Ohio, Lone is a gifted physics student in love with Theresa, an equally gifted actress studying drama. Professor Quigley is in love with her, too, and hopes his play will turn her heart toward him. In World War II Nanjing, Hill and Lily are students living in the Safe Zone and acting in a play directed by the American playwright Peterson who is in love with Lily. Quigley’s play is called The Third Act and completes an autobiographical play Peterson was never able to finish.

These two triangles mirror each other in the past and present. In the modern era, Pike is a third Chinese student, one who is a bit of a misfit, mainly because he is studying physics which he has no interest in rather than history which enthralls him. There is also a minor character without size power and effect, Professor Seeger, Lone’s professor who wants the reflected glory of Lone’s brilliance. In the past, there is Chen, Hill’s brother who also does not belong, a soldier in the Safe Zone endangering everyone. The minor character without outside influence and effect is Shimada, a Japanese scholar who protects the actors from the Japanese soldiers, but with motives of his own.

In many ways, there is brilliance in The Third Act. The parallels between the past and the present are striking considering the very different circumstances. The book offers a fascinating exploration of personal agency, choice, and how we live our lives and live with ourselves after we make our choices. Nonetheless, the book was marred by telling too much all the time. We are privy to the thoughts and feelings of our characters all the time, never being allowed to infer one thing on our own.

The Third Act is a novel by John Wilson based on a screenplay by Xiaoming Yao. It occurred to me it might be hard to make a novel of a screenplay without just changing the layout and adding he or she said everywhere. How do you make it your own? The screenplay seldom offers inner thoughts unless there is some soliloquy, so perhaps those inner thoughts are the clearest way to adopt a screenplay to narrative form. Still, even if that is true, it is overdone in this book, to the point that I felt frustrated and bored. Do you know how hard it is to make the plight of people hiding in an occupied city in the midst of one of the most infamous war crimes in history boring? There is so much built-in drama, but if the reader is only allowed to be a passive receptacle, not given anything to figure out on their own, the book fails to give the reader an active role in the story.

This is one of my personal pet peeves. Reading should be participatory, we should be developing our understanding of the character through what they say and what they do. When we are told, we are deprived of our role in the story, left to be a bystander. However, not all readers hate this as much as I do. For them, this is an intriguing story of two complementary plots with life-changing moral dilemmas to consider.

The Third Act will be released September 11th. I received an ARC from the publisher through LibraryThing.

The Third Act at Orca Book Publishers
John Wilson author site

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/9781459819672/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Aug 25, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a novel about the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 and how 3 Chinese students in present day get involved with the play in college. This makes them take a long look at their own life. The book goes back and forth between past and present day and is rich in characters and details. I enjoyed this book.

I received this from LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an honest review. ( )
  Draak | Aug 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Third Act has a lot to offer. The historical details of Nanjing, while tragic, are interesting. The three main characters were believable and unique. I could feel their personalities and their cultural issues. The dialogue between college students felt true.

I just wish there had been more of everything, that the book was a little "meatier." I would have liked to have read a few more details about Second Sino-Japanese War. The characters could have been fleshed out a little more.

But overall, a good and interesting book. ( )
  amuskopf | Aug 6, 2018 |
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