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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 (1589 )
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4.1 (1401 )
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  •  
    JSB in NWI Superior, WI 07-22-14
    JSB in NWI Superior, WI 07-22-14 Member Since 2015
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    4
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    "Not so amazing"
    Would you try another book from Amy Tan and/or the narrators?

    I read Amy Tan's first book and thought this would be even better. Not. This is either an aberration or sign of slow decline. the reading was laughable: women attempting to voice a Chinese man with an English accent. Absolutely awful. As if the story weren't written poorly enough based on a story so trite in too many ways. I think she was going for classy pornography and she missed by a mile. Or several kilometers.


    What could Amy Tan have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Maybe she wrote this when she was 16 in which case, it isn't too bad. I'd say she needs to mature. So much stereotypical trash. It's hard to describe the many ways this books was disappointing.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Readers were so stiff I think I could hear them crackle. There was nothing smooth or natural about this reading. Poor voicing of different characters, overly formal storytelling. This was very difficult to listen to. I'm not sure why I did.


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

    All of the overly-descriptive sexual encounters. Those were torture. The "deep, philosophical" thinking the characters go through trying to figure out the intentions of other characters. Probably easier to describe what I would keep.


    Any additional comments?

    Awful, awful, awful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette 07-20-14
    Annette 07-20-14 Member Since 2015
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    7
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    "Do not bother!"
    What would have made The Valley of Amazement better?

    Amy Tan is a talented writer, however this book is one of the worst I've ever read. The plot is predictable and boring. The characters were never really likable and I couldn't connect with any of them. The character Magic Gourd's lessons on how to be the perfect courtesan seem to be a list taken straight from a text book. I was constantly wanting to just stop listening and kept falling asleep.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    In every possible way. The voices were the worst possible choices. I was bored to death.


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

    The lessons from Magic Gourd could have been the most fun part of the book. Sadly it was just a list and when read it sounded like someone reading a list of do's and don'ts.


    Any additional comments?

    I would not recommend this book. Don't waste your money.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Ferwerda 07-17-14
    T. Ferwerda 07-17-14
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    "Performance did not improve story"

    I have not finished this reading yet. I am in the midst of the Narrator for Magic Cloud. I want to throw the IPOD through the window -the voice is so slow and grating!! I can only tune it out. I want to skip it, but I might miss something-and it is really a pain to skip things. It's too bad. I didn't like the first narrator's version of Magic Cloud either. I don't think there is any reason for more than one narrator-but one that reads to improve the story is absolutely needed. I think reading this in book form would be tolerable. I could skip the parts that are unneeded and don't add to the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Shalit 07-09-14
    H. Shalit 07-09-14

    havi_ga

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    5
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    "Good but too long"
    What did you love best about The Valley of Amazement?

    Overall, Amy Tan's fiction is wonderful and this book fits that description.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the vivid descriptions of people and places. I especially liked the descriptions of Shanghai because I have been to most of the neighborhoods that she describes.


    Any additional comments?

    The book needs to be edited down a little. There are too many repetitive stories within the story. Also, it is sexually explicit, not for young adult listeners .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-06-14
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-06-14 Member Since 2012

    i like to read. i like to listen.

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    "disappointing and not worth the hype"

    honestly i expected more from amy tan. i dont know why. i've only read one other book by her (joy luck club), and i really did enjoy that one...but its been 6 years since i read it -- and 25 years since she wrote it. thats a lot of time, and a lot of other novels, that i've missed. but i guess because she's so prolific, and so popular, i figured that this novel was bound to be another amazing story. i kind of didn't feel that way.

    to be frank, i found the story to drag on and on...with all of the main characters making all of the same mistakes over and over and over again. without learning or growing.

    Violet is one of the dumbest female protagonists i have ever encountered. i kept grimacing over every choice she made, every person she trusted, every word she uttered. she kept saying 'i'm smart' 'i am clever' 'i could figure a way' -- and i wanted to scream back at here - no you aren't!!! you really really aren't! her story took way to long to unfold. leaving precious little time to get through the other two women's stories, which then felt rushed and cut short. Lulu was semi-interesting....but as i said, i felt i didn't get to really invest myself in her story because it was told so quickly and so near to the end of the novel -- i knew that it was being told only to move the story along to the ending.

    obviously i don't know anything about being a courtesan in turn of the century China...how would i. and this story did give you an interesting look into that lifestyle, whether chosen or forced upon a woman. it was extremely graphic in it's sexual encounters -- which didn't bother me -- but i also didn't find those scenes necessarily helped to move the plot along. they were a bit gratuitous.

    what frustrated me the most in this novel was the two child kidnappings that took place. the complacency of both mothers was astounding...like they lost an old silk scarf -- not a child from their own womb! there was no lamenting except a few words here and there 'i long for my daughter' 'i think about her all the time.' but that didn't seem like what was going on. it seemed, to me, that each woman was moving along with her life without looking back....without giving any effort to rescue her poor child. perhaps it was the times, or the country they were in, but i found the fact that no recourse was even attempted frustrating and bothersome. then the ending comes, everyone hugs and "we can all live happily moving forward and love each other again" -- it was just ridiculous.

    to end, this book was frustrating, and drawn out, and overall disappointing to me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Olivia Boerne, TX, United States 06-05-14
    Olivia Boerne, TX, United States 06-05-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Never ending"
    What would have made The Valley of Amazement better?

    This book just went on and on. I am an Amy Tan fan but this book disappointed.


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

    Yes. The storyline was good.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kandi ruckersville, VA, USA 05-28-14
    Kandi ruckersville, VA, USA 05-28-14 Member Since 2003
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    "Sorry about the Sappy ending"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    A lot to like, but I did get tired of the main characters whining that their mother's didn't love them. Lots of good parts, I couldn't put it down, but I felt let down by the sappy ending.


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

    Too much wallowing about past pain. We have all been hurt, most of us try to move forward, which the characters did in the early parts of the novel, but when things turned out well, they went on like they were in a bad romance novel.


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

    I LOVE Amy Tan and the readers were great, but this one was a disappointment.


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

    I hope not


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    computer asset Sacramento CA 05-23-14
    computer asset Sacramento CA 05-23-14 Member Since 2010

    ball game

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    "Valley of Amazement"
    What did you like best about The Valley of Amazement? What did you like least?

    It was a romance and fantasy of the life of a working girl


    Would you recommend The Valley of Amazement to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes, it was slow to get into but once there fun like cotton candy.


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

    Not sure?


    Was The Valley of Amazement worth the listening time?

    It was a light adventure so easy to listen while doing other chores.


    Any additional comments?

    Sometimes it is nice to just listen to a light fantasy of life in another culture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 05-02-14
    Susan 05-02-14
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    "Terrific Book, Must Read List"
    Would you listen to The Valley of Amazement again? Why?

    Yes. It's an intense story, and yes, the young child is a bit spoiled but soon enough has to grow uip shockingly fast. It's about not only a different culture, but a different time both in China and the USA. Evocative and will sometimes pluck at your emotions with the simple flattened delivery of a story told from the child becoming a woman to older lady character which rings true and is a forceful gripping story.

    Another must read from Amy Tan, right up with Joy Luck Club or maybe even past that benchmark.

    And I shall never look at my pearls quite the same way ever again, LOL!!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Valley of Amazement?

    The part about the war years- the difference of perspective and the non feeling sorry for one's self delivery of the story during those times is amazing.


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

    All were so well fleshed out, but perhaps the 2nd courtesan/maid or maybe her first customer....


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It's a powerhouse of a book- and may make you laugh and cry with just how the characters act like so many people we all know in so many ways.


    Any additional comments?

    I read the negative reviews, but found them wrong, in my opinion as this book was more than worth the credit and held my attention through out the story. Even at the "Oh no!" moments, you listen to the characters being so real, so able to see them and empathize with what is going on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina lugoff, SC, United States 04-29-14
    Christina lugoff, SC, United States 04-29-14 Member Since 2013

    I love Zombie books, Horror books and Amy Tan. I'm always looking for a good read no matter the genre.

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    "This story and the characters become a part of you"

    Amy at her best. She is so great with characters and emotions. I especially love the history and rich environment that encircles all of her stories. Come on Amy lets get the next one!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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