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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 (1046 )
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  •  
    Susan Reiser SAN ANSELMO, CA, United States 01-22-14
    Susan Reiser SAN ANSELMO, CA, United States 01-22-14 Member Since 2011

    SKR

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "the worst"

    If you like to have books read to you as if one is reading down a bullet list,this may be for you. What a disappointment. Of course, as many ,I have read Joy Luck Club and her subsequent novels but I was so utterly disappointed,I actually could not listen after Chapter 4. Maybe it needs a better chance, but I felt I was listening to a fourth grader's outline of a story.
    There is no detailed description of Shang hai which is a given but no description of any characters inner thoughts, no inner thoughts on anything. i could not feel I was in the writers mind or imagination which toime is the whole magic of books. I was so bored and actually frustrated,I stopped and went back to a story I had already heard. It was that horrible.
    I do not remember huge love of Tan's books after JLC but they were good.
    Sorry to say, this is the first of over 200 books that I could not get through. Usually I feel, I paid for this ,I can listen. With this book,I could not even do that.
    Total disappointment and a true waste of a credit! Beware.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noelle R Brodeur NM 01-22-14
    Noelle R Brodeur NM 01-22-14 Member Since 2013

    Noelle

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    "Excellent book, well-researched period piece."
    If you could sum up The Valley of Amazement in three words, what would they be?

    Loved this book!


    What did you like best about this story?

    I enjoyed the voices and the accents seemed just right. Excellent descriptions and detail.
    Great portrayal of China during this period in history. Gave real feeling of life in a "House of Pleasure", with interactions of the women, their feelings about the male visitors, but also the venality of the characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sandra GATLINBURG, TN, United States 01-19-14
    sandra GATLINBURG, TN, United States 01-19-14 Member Since 2012

    Tell us about yourself!

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    2
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    "Filled with mind numbing details"
    Would you try another book from Amy Tan and/or the narrators?

    Normally, I enjoy Amy Tan books so I was pleased to see a new one out. At times the minutia is more than I could bear so I had to fast forward to get to somethinf interesting. I now know WAY more than I want to know about the facial expressions, body movements and wooing habits of a courtesan.


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

    No


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Perhaps when Viloet, Magic Gourd and their "sister" escape from their crazy husband. They showed real resourcefulness and courage.


    Was The Valley of Amazement worth the listening time?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I would say this book would have been better, half as long.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cassandra United States 01-16-14
    Cassandra United States 01-16-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You won't miss much if you skip it"
    Any additional comments?

    I've read an enjoyed four of Amy Tan's earlier books. Maybe it's me moving on. Maybe it's Ms Tan moving on. Whatever the cause, my enjoyment has diminished with each successive book. I'm at the point of wondering if it's time to reread The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife to reevaluate my strong affinity for those works.

    This is the first Tan novel I've listened to on tape. I despised the stilted narration in the early chapters in Violet's voice. I barely hung in to finish the book. The only chapter I thought was acceptably narrated was close to the end, the chapter describing Lucretia's later life. I still can't tell if the narration destroyed my enjoyment of the story or if narration and character development equally disappointed. Fundamentally, I didn't feel much connection to the characters and their struggles, didn't understand and accept their reactions to life events, and couldn't sympathize deeply with their plights because their actions didn't feel authentic. The Valley of Amazement was entirely too much of a soap opera, where the characters repeat stupid life mistakes and wallow in the misery that results.

    The background material about life in a Shanghai courtesan house was interesting as far as it went, which wasn't far enough. Autobiography of a Geisha did a marginally better job of describing the life of a courtesan and the individual's acceptance and reaction to that life. Yes, I know, that was an autobiography about a geisha in Japan, not a novel. It felt so much more authentic to me without sacrificing my sympathy for the geisha.

    The final indignity was the ending. The story just stopped. Grrr.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mari Fort Walton Beach, FL, United States 01-15-14
    Mari Fort Walton Beach, FL, United States 01-15-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Interesting History, good flowing read"
    Where does The Valley of Amazement rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was a well thought out story and brought in history throughout as well. Although at times it was a bit to much like Memoirs of a Geshia, it was still good. The ending although was a bit abrupt.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Rocklin, CA, United States 01-04-14
    Janet Rocklin, CA, United States 01-04-14 Member Since 2002
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    "You won't be disappointed!"
    Would you listen to The Valley of Amazement again? Why?

    Yes, love Amy Tan's stories of mother and daughters complex relationships.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Violet's transition from pampered child to pampered Courtesan, then her appreciation of the love that was always there but she never appreciated until it was almost to late.


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

    Violet


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee S. Colvin Minneapolis Minnesota 12-29-13
    Lee S. Colvin Minneapolis Minnesota 12-29-13 Member Since 2013

    mixing momma

    ratings
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    "dissapointed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    a perv


    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    I didn't like any of the characters, the story was monotonous and predictable. Hey, I already read Memoirs of a Geisha!!!!!!!!


    What didn’t you like about the narrators’s performance?

    It was read by different women, but they each had very irritating voices. The American woman in the story spoke with a Chinees accent, the little girl sounded ridiculous and the older geisha had a very scratchy voice like nails on a black board.


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

    dissapointment


    Any additional comments?

    I have enjoyed all of Tans other books. The mother/daughter relationships. The sweeping history and the individuals caught in their circumstances. This book was a sad sahdow of those.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Kiss Washington, DC USA 12-28-13
    A. Kiss Washington, DC USA 12-28-13 Member Since 2003
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    "OK but not Tan's best"
    Would you try another book from Amy Tan and/or the narrators?

    I've liked her previous books a lot; this one was OK but not her best


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    The end was reasonably satisfying, but mostly I was more than ready for it to come already


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    Most of the narration was good and easy to listen to, but a few of the women's voices were irritatingly high pitched and babyish. I'm sure they were meant to be that way, based on those characters, but I didn't enjoy hearing them.


    Could you see The Valley of Amazement being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    I'm sure it will be made into a movie some time


    Any additional comments?

    The depiction of the Courtesan House culture in Shanghai in the early 1900's was interesting, but there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary repetition. Some of the description of sexual encounters and seduction are fairly graphic, maybe unnecessarily so. I did get a bit tired of the main character (Violet's) whining about not feeling sufficiently loved. The secondary characters seemed a bit shallow, more like plot devices than people in some cases.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy OAK RIDGE, TN, United States 12-24-13
    Amy OAK RIDGE, TN, United States 12-24-13 Member Since 2013

    I like listening to stories that teach me about other places and times.

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    "Amy Tan Continues to Amaze!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Valley of Amazement to be better than the print version?

    The audio is more accessible for people, like myself, who drive alot. I can listen to the story as I wait in traffic or drive long stretches. The different voices are great for differentiating between the different women.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Lulu, she was a strong free wheeling American woman. When life gave her lemons she turned them into something great. She not only prospered, but she grew. Lulu made mistakes, but they were out of love. The best part was she got to see it all again thru her daughter and her grandaughter. What a lovely completion to a life story.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    She sounded genuine. I could actually visualize the different women by the voicing.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, this took me 4 weeks.


    Any additional comments?

    It was beautiful. Amy Tan writes with great tenderness for her women and her native country. I was engrossed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    debra SUNLAND, CA, United States 12-19-13
    debra SUNLAND, CA, United States 12-19-13 Member Since 2010

    Aloha deb

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not the usual Amy Tan fare"
    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    I am a fan of Amy Tan. I was disappointed at the overarching theme of sex. I'm not prudish when it comes to sex in a book, however when 90% of the book centers around it, I become uncomfortable.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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