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The Valley of Amazement | [Amy Tan]

The Valley of Amazement

Shanghai, 1912. Violet Minturn is the privileged daughter of the American madam of the city's most exclusive courtesan house. But when the Ching dynasty is overturned, Violet is separated from her mother in a cruel act of chicanery and forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese and half-American, Violet grapples with her place in the worlds of East and West - until she is able to merge her two halves, empowering her to become a shrewd courtesan who excels in the business of seduction and illusion, though she still struggles to understand who she is.
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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan brings us her latest novel: a sweeping, evocative epic of two women's intertwined fates and their search for identity - from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village

Shanghai, 1912. Violet Minturn is the privileged daughter of the American madam of the city's most exclusive courtesan house. But when the Ching dynasty is overturned, Violet is separated from her mother in a cruel act of chicanery and forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese and half-American, Violet grapples with her place in the worlds of East and West - until she is able to merge her two halves, empowering her to become a shrewd courtesan who excels in the business of seduction and illusion, though she still struggles to understand who she is.

Back in 1897 San Francisco, Violet's mother, Lucia, chooses a disastrous course as a sixteen-year-old, when her infatuation with a Chinese painter compels her to leave her home for Shanghai. Shocked by her lover's adherence to Chinese traditions, she is unable to change him, despite her unending American ingenuity.

Fueled by betrayals, both women refuse to submit to fate and societal expectations, persisting in their quests to recover what was taken from them: respect; a secure future; and, most poignantly, love from their parents, lovers, and children. To reclaim their lives, they take separate journeys - to a backwater hamlet in China, the wealthy environs of the Hudson River Valley, and, ultimately, the unknown areas of their hearts, where they discover what remains after their many failings to love and be loved. Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement transports listeners from the collapse of China's last imperial dynasty to the beginning of the Republic and recaptures the lost world of old Shanghai through the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreigners living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II. A deeply evocative narrative of the profound connections between mothers and daughters, imbued with Tan's characteristic insight and humor, The Valley of Amazement conjures a story of inherited trauma, desire and deception, and the power and obstinacy of love.

©2013 Amy Tan (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What Members Say

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3.8 (1201 )
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  •  
    Pamela J United States 11-25-13
    Pamela J United States 11-25-13 Member Since 2004

    Sure, I'd love to hear your story....

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Just could NOT get past the ugliness"

    I don't always have to have happy endings and triumphs, but I do need to have characters I care about (whether good or bad). This was just gruesomeness from three areas: a meandering unfocused plot, really poor narration (that was probably intended to follow the dour nature of the story), and savage assaults on women and children. I am an Amy Tan fan and stuck with this far longer than I would had it been any other author, but ultimately this had very little redemption. I cannot justify recommending this to someone other than people with a strong stomach and a desperate need to say they've read all of Tan's works. Very disappointing.

    27 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eva Gannon Chicago, Illinois, US 12-22-13
    Eva Gannon Chicago, Illinois, US 12-22-13 Member Since 2006
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    "A Disappointing Bodice Ripper"

    It was hard to read this book as anything other than a romance, bodice ripper type of novel. It certainly isn't up to the standards of Tan's previous works. Viewing it as a well written potboiler (is that a non sequitur?) allowed me to keep reading. Had I been looking for meaning, I would have put it down unfinished.

    The characters are almost caricatures, who learn little if anything, and what they learn is predictable. Even the main characters aren't particularly likable, and it's hard to identify with them.

    The plot is predictable, and long passages are just boring. This may be because it's larded with minutiae; some description is necessary, but Tan takes it to ridiculous, and somewhat dull, levels.

    There are many passages where the reader can just skim through at a good clip, without losing anything necessary for comprehension.

    The use of three narrators saves the book and weighted in the balance when I was deciding to stop reading or not. The breathe life into the characters, and add interest.

    Overall, I don't recommend the book. I bought the companion Kindle,and without it, would probably not have finished the book. I did, but was glad to be done with it.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 01-02-14
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 01-02-14 Member Since 2011

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "Life in a Courtesan house."
    Where does The Valley of Amazement rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I would say about the middle. It kept me interested and was beautifully told but parts seemed to lag and some times I felt like, can't these women ever get a break in life?


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Violet who is the main character of the story. She grows up in a courtesan house and then through a vicious trick is separated from her mother and sold into another house as a virgin courtesan when quite young. Her story to find love and create a life for herself is amazing.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    Asian characters with Asian narrators. Perfect!


    Who was the most memorable character of The Valley of Amazement and why?

    Magic Gourd a courtesan who mothers Violet when she is separated from her mother is a wonderful person who shines throughout the book. Just loved her!


    Any additional comments?

    This is a long book, I wasn't that interested in all the training for a courtesan house, but I understand it was part of the story. I wish it could have been a happier story, but when you think about it, sex workers lives are not very happy, so this was true to life.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Albuquerque, NM, USA 11-19-13
    Elizabeth Albuquerque, NM, USA 11-19-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Who wrote this?"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Sadly, the unlikeable characters and their disturbing and unending stories make for a tough go.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Amy Tan again?

    I was curious about what new material Amy Tan could mine. I persisted in reading simply to see if she could turn around this unlikeable set of characters and conditions into an interesting and plausible story. Alas, it was not to be.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    This was a very disappointing production in comparison to the great work she has done previously.


    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet 11-15-13
    Janet 11-15-13
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    "Not as expected"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Amy Tan has been a favorite over the years for her colorful, misguided characters, the interplay between generations of women, the triumph over pain and abuse.

    This book has the abuse and the misguided, but everything is so flat that I simply wanted to plug my ears with cotton and not hear anything for a while. Repetition abounds, wondering about whether the mother betrayed her daughter. How could a writer with Tan's skills come up with something on a topic like this and have it be so hopelessly boring?


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Diane Setterfield, Bellman & Black


    Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

    okay


    What character would you cut from The Valley of Amazement?

    all of them


    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MeanStreaks Helena, Alabama 11-07-13
    MeanStreaks Helena, Alabama 11-07-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Classic Amy Tan"
    If you could sum up The Valley of Amazement in three words, what would they be?

    Exotic. Entertaining. Consuming. -- Amy Tan's gift for exposing and explaining human nature burns brightly in this book. As an American, I love reading these books to discover more about Chinese culture. Realizing how much we have in common, and how different our cultures are is always a treat, and an education. Amy's descriptions of even the most minute detail or feeling is artfully crafted with the main character, Violet. I always feel like a fly on the wall and can see the rooms these characters sit in as I glide through each pages. If you've never read an Amy Tan novel, you have truly missed out on a masterwork.


    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 11-21-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 11-21-13 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tan is a great storyteller"

    Amy Tan’s new book is narrated by seven year old Violet Minturn. Violet is an American girl born in Shanghai, of an American mother and Chinese father, but she American in manner and speech, who can also speak Chinese. Her Mother Lulu is the only white woman who owns a first-class courtesan house in 1905 Shanghai. She caters to both the western client and the wealthy Chinese. Violet learns early that her Mother‘s profession is not about sex but illusion. Tan depicts Lulu as an acute business woman able to take advantage of business opportunities in Shanghai. The story’s plot twist and turns, a life changing betrayal has Violet sold off to a courtesan house and Lulu on her way to San Francisco thinking Violet is dead. The story ranges from 1900 to 1939 during the turbulent times of World War One, the 1918 flu pandemic to the rise of Chian Kai-Shek and the Chinese Communist party to the brink of World War II, through all this Tan weaves the story of Lulu and Violet. Tan’s great descriptions and twisty plot makes for a book that is hard to put down. Three women narrate the book Nancy Wo, Joyce Bean and Amy tan.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine 04-12-14
    Katherine 04-12-14
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    "This novel should come with trigger alerts"

    My problem with this book is that, while it seems to be about strong, resilient women, it's really a relentless and unsparing description of the experiences of women who have to choose between starvation and a life of being raped in exchange for cash and gifts. Certainly, there are still millions of girls sold into sexual slavery, and maybe it's our duty to acknowledge this, but 25 hours of it? I feel blindsided, like I bought a novel and got a diatribe. Moments of relief and humor, intimations of "courtship," and a ragged story line do not make this an engaging read. Amy Tan's editor was clearly too intimidated to insist on the reworking that might have made this book even tolerable.

    It was generally tedious listening, occasionally droll, often unremittingly dull, and at times excruciatingly painful. Never fun. Never.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie anchorage, ak, United States 11-14-13
    connie anchorage, ak, United States 11-14-13 Member Since 2005
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    "So Disappointed"
    What disappointed you about The Valley of Amazement?

    I had to stop listening when the molestation of a fifteen year old was graphic. It was graphic and if it were on film, the makers of the film and/or possessors of the film would be arrested for child pornography. I get that it is a period piece and depicting other cultures but it is still inappropriate and immoral to glamorize this in an erotic manner.


    Has The Valley of Amazement turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I will not purchase another Amy Tan book.


    Any additional comments?

    It is sad to see the decline in this authors writing.

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Lakeport, CA, United States 11-12-13
    Sharon Lakeport, CA, United States 11-12-13 Member Since 2004
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    "AWFUL AND SAD"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    No one


    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    It is generic, and sad. I know that Any is a talented writer but she didn't use any of her talent in this book. No imagination, to wit, or charm.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Different narrators, get rid of the Disney chick, and wake Amy up before she reads.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    NONE


    17 of 24 people found this review helpful
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  • Rebecca
    London, United Kingdom
    12/9/13
    Overall
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    "Draws you from word to word, you can't stop."
    Would you listen to The Valley of Amazement again? Why?

    I always find that the second read or listen of any good book gleans much more from it, the first time is all about the plot, the second time I get sub themes, poetry in the prose and other gems.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Violet, poor damaged violet who started her life with such a burden and never stopped fitting back.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    When Golden lotus laid out the rules of a courtesan.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When they took little flora away.


    Any additional comments?

    This book,like all Amy Tan's novels does not disappoint. It is not great literature, its a compelling read. I always like a good ponder on the sins of the Fathers.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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