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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 (1224 )
5 star
 (409)
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3 star
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3.7 (1100 )
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4.0 (1082 )
5 star
 (468)
4 star
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3 star
 (161)
2 star
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1 star
 (48)
Performance
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  •  
    Teresa Okemos, MI, United States 11-28-13
    Teresa Okemos, MI, United States 11-28-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    "Amy Tan Wrote This?"

    If the author had been anyone other than Amy Tan I wouldn't haven't listened as long as I did. The characters are undeveloped and uninteresting, and the plot--such as it is--simply struggles along. I kept wondering if it was the writing or the narration that was the problem, and then came to the sad conclusion that it was both. Amy Tan--did you listen to the narrators? And if so, didn't you have the ability to ask for replacements?

    This is a second-rate bodice buster that goes on far too long. My recommendation: Skip it. Try ANY of Tan's other books. She's a talented and moving writer--something just went terribly wrong with this book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ME In Tx HOUSTON, TEXAS, United States 11-27-13
    ME In Tx HOUSTON, TEXAS, United States 11-27-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "SOOOO disappointed!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    WOW when did Amy Tan start writing porn?
    I wait and wait for her next book BUT this one was not worth the wait! So disappointing.


    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    Graphic, gratuitous sex all through the book.


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

    Disappointment for me. Sadness for her.


    Any additional comments?

    Please give more of a preview on books when trying to sell to us!

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hyacinthe 11-26-13
    Hyacinthe 11-26-13 Member Since 2012

    Prolific reader, writer of short stories, novels and non-fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Profoundly shallow, unfeeling protagonist"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone who has limited interest in character development, genuine emotion and a gripping, believable plot line.


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

    Violet starts off as a self-centred spoiled child whose primary emotion is annoyance. She shows more affection for her cat than for her mother. As she becomes a young woman and then a courtesan, she shows little initiative for taking action to change the direction of her life. There was no passion. The portrayal of the character does not build depth or resonance - I stopped trying to care about her when she so meekly let her child be taken from her without putting up any sort of a fight. Her passivity and lack of heroism were overwhelming.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator(s) were adequate, but, like the character Violet, the delivery was flat and without affect.


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

    Fury. Disappointment. Annoyance. Disbelief. I felt tricked by the 4 star ratings because getting deeper into the story did not expose any new truths about Violet's journey to self-discovery. I kept listening for as long as I could bear it, waiting for the shift to action or a lift in the story arc or an aha moment, but simply gave up.


    Any additional comments?

    I thought this would be a good book for a 13 hour plane trip but it was not. I'm so disappointed that the contents did not live up to the description.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Regina INDIANAPOLIS, IN, United States 11-19-13
    Regina INDIANAPOLIS, IN, United States 11-19-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    "It's a Freaking Soap Opera!"
    What did you like best about The Valley of Amazement? What did you like least?

    I have loved Amy Tan's books in the past but this one is not one that I would recommend to anyone, I almost stopped listening several times. The plot is totally predictable, the women characters flighty, impulsive and down right stupid! The storytelling was problematic, the shift in timeline three-quarters of the way through the book was very confusing, keeping the tale running in a straight line might have helped keep all the characters straight. And what in the world ever became of Teddy?


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Steven King's new book.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None


    Did The Valley of Amazement inspire you to do anything?

    I am inspired to take Amy Tan off of my list of favorite authors.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Ann Mendez-deLeon 11-15-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dissapointed..."

    Too bad...she's just not a great writer. The narration was awful... overacted terribly. Why do they let authors read their own work?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna PLANO, TX, United States 04-06-14
    Donna PLANO, TX, United States 04-06-14 Member Since 2008

    Growing up in England, surrounded by amazing literature, I was devastated when my eyesight made reading difficult. Audible is truly a gift.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Best Amy Tan Book Ever!"
    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I loved the narration. The narrators fit the characters beautifully.


    Any additional comments?

    Lisa See and Amy Tan are two of my favorite authors. I have to admit I have hundreds of great authors that I also love. I actually enjoyed this book more on the second listen. It really is like the layers of an onion and many books worth reading are deeper after the first read or listen.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 04-04-14
    Sarah Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 04-04-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not Amy Tan's best work"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    It was a little haphazard and a number of events were unnecessary to the development of the story so it seemed a little longwinded. I would streamline the story a bit more.


    If you’ve listened to books by Amy Tan before, how does this one compare?

    It's not her best work. It was a lot more sexual than previous books too.


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

    n/a


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

    No. Unlike Shanghai Girls which I loved was part of a series this was a decent standalone book and I wouldn't consider another in the series, though I would probably read almost anything Amy Tan wrote :)


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deanna McLaughlin 03-20-14

    A runner who loves to read and listen!

    ratings
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    2
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    Story
    "Great Characters, Intriguing Story, Well-told"
    Any additional comments?

    This is Amy Tan at what she does best: Character development in an interesting story that captures and holds your attention. I'm not sure what other reviewers found as lacking story or characters they didn't care about. Perhaps the subject of courtesans and sex was unpalatable for them. The characters are well developed, strong women, interesting and well written. The novel covers many generations and remains true to the story with the characters growing and changing in believable ways. The women are strong, witty and engaging. Read/Listen and enjoy! It's Amy Tan!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maripat 12-12-13
    Maripat 12-12-13
    ratings
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    1
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    "more like the valley of disappointment"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    it is too far off Amy Tan's standards for redemption. I'm not sure where she went wrong, but this mother/daughter relationship was not relatable.


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

    whiney - I kept telling myself that Tan's books might start slow, but they build up to full character depictions - not this one. The narrator could not help out this story.


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

    extreme disappointment. I have always treasured reading previous books by Tan. The mother/daughter relationships described by Tan always cut across all cultures making the books insightful and great stories.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    utahmomma 12-08-13
    utahmomma 12-08-13 Member Since 2013

    jennjer101

    ratings
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    110
    5
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    Story
    "Made me want to throw myself off a mountain"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Deaf people? People who love to hear women abused, raped, beaten, sold into prostitution and murdered without reprocusion? Sadistic people? Ted Bundy?


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

    Yes


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None! At least the narrator was good.


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

    Everything about violet. End it with her mother leaving for the US.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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