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.
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.
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?
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.
Asian characters with Asian narrators. Perfect!
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!
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.
I'm a reader so I was skeptical that I could listen to a book and enjoy it. The narration pulled me in and I couldn't wait each day to get in my car for my commute with Amy Tan.
Sure, I'd love to hear your story....
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.
I have read several books by Amy Tan and have enjoyed them all. Her writing brings to life the characters she writes about, as well as the settings where the events take place. Some readers may be put off by the descriptions of life in the courtesan houses, but their existence is historically documented, and the experiences of the women and girls who worked in the houses were not imaginary.
The narration was well done and held my interest throughout the story. If you are a fan of Amy Tan, don't skip this because of some negative reviews. It is well worth reading.
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.
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.
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?
Diane Setterfield, Bellman & Black
all of them
Pulls you into a different experience of the world; yet tells a story that any son, daughter, mother, father will feel.
From the first word, you find yourself in the rich, exotic world of Chinese courtesan houses in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Shanghai. It follows the story of half-American, half-Chinese Violet Minturn from age seven into her forties as she lives and loves in Shanghai. It is a tremendous tale of three women; mother, daughter, and granddaughter; who live different lives but the bond between them is unbroken despite separations of distance and time. It taps something I have come to realize the last few years, my mother lives in me.
For the writers, much craft can be gleaned from this book. Ask yourself why Amy Tan chose to tell Lucia’s story so late in the book? It is an inspired piece of storytelling from a master. A great example of how sex scenes should written and can be a pivotal part of a story and not set decoration.
The audio performances by Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean and Amy Tan bring the characters to life. However, this is not a good bedtime listen, it is too interesting and may keep you awake. Listen on the weekends. Once you start it, it is hard to stop.
I want my own Magic Gourd!
Excellent book making great use of creative chronology.
The narration of this book was superb. It had so many different language and subtle culture shifts that the narrators seemed to express perfectly.
Wait, is this a solicitation for a cortizan?
Aye yo! Does it really take 24 hours of audio to express the sentiment that all of us want to be loved and it is our greatest fear that we are not?
Yes, nice story, good characters, interesting descriptions of historical social customs
Narrators made the separate characters recognizable; good pace
"Draws you from word to word, you can't stop."
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.
Violet, poor damaged violet who started her life with such a burden and never stopped fitting back.
When Golden lotus laid out the rules of a courtesan.
When they took little flora away.
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.
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