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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Sadly, the unlikeable characters and their disturbing and unending stories make for a tough go.
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.
This was a very disappointing production in comparison to the great work she has done previously.
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.
It is an epic story of the lives of many women in China in the early 20th century. Starting with Lucretia who makes a decision to have a fling with a Chinese student house guest and falls pregnant. She follows him to China where the story really begins...
Magic Gourd - such a resourceful, loyal, opinionated, caring and funny mother figure. She just rolls up her sleeves and gets it done.
It was fascinating to peek behind the silk curtain of courtesan life in China, how women are treated on both sides of the respectable / not respectable divide and how those norms changed with western influences.
The story was wonderful. I was sucked into the storyline almost instantly. I love the relationships between the characters, they were so intricate and not connected in a typical way. I loved that I was on the edge of my seat and could really feel for the characters.
I don't have a particular favorite character, I loved them all. Although when the book switches to the different perspectives of the characters, it really gives you a better sense of how the character is feeling and why they are making certain decisions.
I have listened to all of the other available books by Amy Tan and I've liked them all, when she does the narrating herself, it does seem a little flat, but the story makes up for it. Plus, I like that I get to hear the author tell the story with her own voice in parts, knowing that she wrote the story.
This book has gotten some really unfair reviews, and I couldn't disagree more. This is my far my favorite Amy Tan book so far. I'm hoping that she does another book that is a sequel or something similar.
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.
Different narrators, get rid of the Disney chick, and wake Amy up before she reads.
I am a serious business person who loves to escape into a book. I like books about another time and place. I am particularly fond of historical fiction and love a narrator with a proper british accent.
As with all Amy's books, it's as hard to keep reading as to put down. The life of Asian women in Amy's stories are so hard. The book is full of interesting twists and turns.
"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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