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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 (1559 )
5 star
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3.7 (1395 )
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4.1 (1376 )
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 (61)
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  •  
    norma trusiewicz 04-16-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    6
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    "Almost as good as her other novels."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    If you have a choice of other Amy Tan novels, I would recommend starting there.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colleen Edmonton, AB, Canada 03-18-14
    Colleen Edmonton, AB, Canada 03-18-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    114
    11
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    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Strange king of read...?"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Lately, I've read a few book like this where there are parts of the book I really enjoy and others that just drag on and could be either cut down considerably or eliminated entirely. Over ally, an interesting read, but you found have to hang in there and I did end up skipping parts.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Amy Tan? Why or why not?

    Probably not...because I'm sure the writing style is the same, and the book wasn't that great.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes.


    Did The Valley of Amazement inspire you to do anything?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Sacramento, CA 03-10-14
    Amazon Customer Sacramento, CA 03-10-14 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
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    Story
    "Horrible"
    What would have made The Valley of Amazement better?

    Better narration, faster pace to the story line, leave out details about child sex trafficking, slavery and rape. We don't need details on how to be a courtesan. Crudeness and vulgar language add nothing to the novel.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    I am not sure.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    Not sure


    What character would you cut from The Valley of Amazement?

    Not sure


    Any additional comments?

    I usually love Amy Tan but this book is awful. I can't even get through it. I am going to ask for a refund.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 03-09-14
    Jennifer 03-09-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    Story
    "Generations of women, interwoven creatively"
    What did you love best about The Valley of Amazement?

    I felt like I was hearing stories from my mother, and her mother, and the generations before, as passed down through oral tradition. Full of insight, humor, skepticism, shock, and unabashedly misplaced love. Yes, this is a story of generations of strong women, but it's also a series of love stories, of families loved and lost, of heartbreak and longing, of political ambition and cunning.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Multi-generational narration. There was only one segment toward the end that did not "fit" with where I thought we were in the characters - but I got accustomed to it. The change in narrative voices is a wonderful addition as each character in the generational lineage tells her parts of the interweaving stories.


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

    Yes, there were some tears!


    Any additional comments?

    This was long and at times I just simply picked up another book for variety - but I never regretted coming back to hear more of the stories. No regrets. Some books you just can't finish because they go on and on, even though they're good - this was NOT like that. It was long, but it was also a very, very good book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trish Vidal 03-08-14
    Trish Vidal 03-08-14 Member Since 2015

    Spiritual Adventurer

    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
    ratings
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    35
    5
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    "Did not like at all!"
    What disappointed you about The Valley of Amazement?

    For starters, I didn't like the changes in the narrator of the story, for one. The first one happened @ 5 hours and it was somewhat jarring and a disturbing change from the first narrator. The story was long and boring and wasn't worth the time I spent on it. How many tragedies can you inflict on one person before it borders on fantasy? It was just plain horrible!


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

    I probably won't read Amy Tan any longer.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darla Kansas City, MO, United States 02-20-14
    Darla Kansas City, MO, United States 02-20-14 Member Since 2006
    ratings
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    1
    1
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    Story
    "Not Up to Tan's Quality"
    What would have made The Valley of Amazement better?

    I am a huge fan of Amy Tan but this story was not up to her usual standard. I missed her beautiful descriptions and discussion of the culture juxtaposed against historical events. The story was trapped inside a house that could have been in anywhere USA as I never really got a sense of Shanghai.


    What was most disappointing about Amy Tan’s story?

    Valley of Amazement was a disappointment. I felt the story was predictable - but mainly I found Tan's dependence on semi-pornographic description quickly became boring. Tan is a much better writer than this and could have made the story compelling without all the blatant sexual description that went on long after it was necessary to add to the story. It is hard, I am sure, to compete in a world full of books of this genre but Tan has the talent and she should use it.


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

    Yes, and as to the narration, it was well done.


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

    Tan writes beautifully even when not presenting a compelling story line.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Owlgirl Nevada City, California, United States 02-16-14
    Owlgirl Nevada City, California, United States 02-16-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Amazeing Writing! Wonderul"
    What did you love best about The Valley of Amazement?

    The story of Violet, I felt as if I was always with her...


    What did you like best about this story?

    The whole story, and the ending was as it should be...


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

    No but they were all great


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

    Some laughs but some crying also..


    Any additional comments?

    Great listen, the story was wonderful you were in 19th century China, and what it was like for some women at that time... Definitely recommend it.!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marjorie ELIZABETH, NJ, United States 02-15-14
    Marjorie ELIZABETH, NJ, United States 02-15-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    40
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    Story
    "Beautifully woven tale"
    What made the experience of listening to The Valley of Amazement the most enjoyable?

    The voices of the narrators and how they played out each character


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was heart breaking and Triumphant


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When the character Magic Gourd who tried to warn Violet about her poet husband. It's mindful to always consider those who are more experienced in life. Sometimes they see what youthful ideals miss.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Provocative, Emotional and Breath Taking...


    Any additional comments?

    I didn't want the story to end

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy Cooke Kalamazoo, MI United States 02-14-14
    Cindy Cooke Kalamazoo, MI United States 02-14-14 Member Since 2015

    Serious about gadgets

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    18
    4
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    0
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    "Can't believe Amy Tan wrote this awful book"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The same quality of writing as the author's previous books.


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

    Create characters I could care about, and minimize the soft porn of the "how to be a courtesan manual" that went ON and ON.


    Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

    Yes


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

    I quit during the "how to be a courtesan" lessons. I really can't say I enjoyed any part of the book up to that point, but the combination of the soft porn read in the droning voice of the narrator put me over the top.


    Any additional comments?

    If you liked previous Amy Tan books, this is not for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dawn Chesapeake Beach, MD United States 02-13-14
    Dawn Chesapeake Beach, MD United States 02-13-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    22
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    "Disappointed"

    My favorite Amy Tan book is Saving Fish From Drowning. I was completely disappointed with this book. The main character, Violet is intolerable throughout the novel. I was hoping for some redeeming quality at the end but it never came. There are almost no likable characters throughout the entire novel. I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters and therefore did not enjoy any of the details of the period or the places.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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