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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

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1081 )
5 star
 (354)
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3 star
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3.7 (972 )
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4.0 (955 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (46)
Performance
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  •  
    M.E. New York, NY, United States 03-26-14
    M.E. New York, NY, United States 03-26-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "I can't believe Amy Tan wrote this!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This could have been a typical 5-star Amy Tan book if the story was not about self-centered, whining, stupid people.


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

    I don't understand how Amy Tan could have written such a terrible book. I've always loved her work and finished he books on one or two days. The VoA was painful to listen to, I forced myself to finish in hopes it would improve. It never did.


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    Hated every character in this book.


    What character would you cut from The Valley of Amazement?

    This whole book should never had made it past the editor.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't waste your time with this one. Go back to Amy Tan's first books, so much better.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rkr4cds Upper Midwest 03-24-14
    rkr4cds Upper Midwest 03-24-14 Member Since 2010

    rkr4cds

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A.T. tried to cover too much"
    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    The political angle on the times was too long & overblown. I don't care for her stories which include so much long-winded rehashing of history. It was as if the first introductory part was leading to a different book or type of story, one not expected or anticipated by A.T.


    Any additional comments?

    It would have been better if just the story about the 2 women (Mother & Daughter) had been told. A.T.: keep on doing more of what we've come to love about your work—stories about the Asian/Chinese characters and their life stories.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Polly FORT WORTH, TX, United States 03-14-14
    Polly FORT WORTH, TX, United States 03-14-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Don't waste your time."

    I kept listening thinking that it would get better, but it didn't happen. I couldn't finish the book. It finally got so bad that I just quit. The descriptions went on and on and on to the point that I couldn't stand to listen to the narrator--it was like fingernails on a chalk board.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Merrillville, IN, United States 03-11-14
    Karen Merrillville, IN, United States 03-11-14 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing"
    Would you try another book from Amy Tan and/or the narrators?

    I've read and loved most of Amy Tan's books, so I'll certainly read the next despite my disappointment in this one.


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

    No.


    How could the performance have been better?

    More commitment from the narrators. They seemed too detached, even in the happy parts.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Valley of Amazement?

    I'd recast or cut the entire section where Magic Gourd is advising Violet in the arts of being a courtesan.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm sorry to say it, but I couldn't finish this one. Too much attention on the valleys of life without acknowledging the mountains that define them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Cape Town, South Africa 12-11-13
    Sue Cape Town, South Africa 12-11-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    "One bad decision takes 2 generations to fix."
    Would you listen to The Valley of Amazement again? Why?

    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...


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Magic Gourd - such a resourceful, loyal, opinionated, caring and funny mother figure. She just rolls up her sleeves and gets it done.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janine Singapore, Singapore 11-24-13
    Janine Singapore, Singapore 11-24-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    10
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    "Good story, pity about the performance"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes - but it would be the print title. The (over) performance here is like a thick layer of fondant one has to break through to get at the good stuff. Am wondering what author Amy Tan (one of the narrators) was thinking...


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story line.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    wickedly overperformed... even dialed back 50% would have been over-the-top. It's intrusive and annoying to have the narrator/s so in your face.


    Do you think The Valley of Amazement needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Please change the producers/narrator if you do...


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. United States 11-18-13
    D. United States 11-18-13 Member Since 2011

    let go or be dragged. - Zen proverb

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointed"
    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    I, too, bought this book, based on the familiarity of Amy Tan's appearance on the book shelves for many years. This book left me sorely wondering why I bothered. Tedious, pointless drivel that goes on and on about descriptions and points I'd rather not continue to delve deeper into, yet it does. I am a little more half-way through the book and sadly, it hasn't improved. Fantastic idea, poor execution. I will give Amy Tan another go with one of her others, but if you are considering this one, I would suggest to move on.


    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie anchorage, ak, United States 11-14-13
    connie anchorage, ak, United States 11-14-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Shelby, OH, United States 03-26-14
    Mary Shelby, OH, United States 03-26-14 Member Since 2012
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    "So disappointing!"
    Would you try another book from Amy Tan and/or the narrators?

    Really questionable now. I have read some of her earlier books and loved them but this one was terrible. Thinly disguised soft porn, long and boring descriptions and unconvincing story line.


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

    Not sure.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    Not much


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

    Disappointment.


    Any additional comments?

    I did not return this book, but probably should have!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer KENT, WA, United States 12-10-13
    Amazon Customer KENT, WA, United States 12-10-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Loved this book!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Valley of Amazement the most enjoyable?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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