The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement

[a Novel]

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
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From the lavish parlours of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village--a sweeping, evocative epic of two women's intertwined fates and their search for identity

Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man's fantasy since her start as a "Virgin Courtesan" at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the east and the west. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father's identity, Violet's quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity--and the loss of her own daughter. Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet's daughter, and will undo all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement sweeps the reader along a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacies of traumas, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, returning readers to the compelling territory Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club . With her characteristic wisdom,grace and humour, Tan conjures up a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollinsPublishers, c2013.
ISBN: 9781443410229
Branch Call Number: FICTION TAN
Characteristics: xiv, 589 p. ; 24 cm.

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h
hartspass
Apr 25, 2017

Disappointing, It almost reads as another version of the Joy Luck Club. Tan fails to discuss the cultural and political history of Shanghai during this chaotic period of history. The gangs, the rise of the Communists, the takeover of Chang gets the shortest and most passing references. The narrative's focus. the lives of high class prostitutes, has little or no meat on these bones. The book could have been about writers, or jewelers. Being a prostitute serves only as a backdrop to her stories of 3 generations of women. The story of the kidnapping and return to the 3rd generation is virtually unbelievable. How can a high class person, with money and contacts just let her daughter be taken is it a best an clunky plot device to bring the mother and daughter back together. All the men are bad or foolish. All the women are good.

And having the mother and daughter sailing off in the the happy sunset at the beginning of the really bad times of WW 2 gives us all a happy and contented ending. Jane Austin of the 21st century without the writing talent.

e
Eil_1
Aug 26, 2016

A powerful and compelling story of three generations of women: their individual stories intertwined with loss, heartbreak, betrayals and yet always with hope.

a
adrianeskinner
Sep 20, 2015

This is a carefully crafted and well-researched epic. Make it through the extremely detailed setup and the payoff is high. Think of it as a slow burn.

Tan's focus is almost solely on the emotional evolution of the characters, not on history or coincidence or relationships or action, although these things are there. If you're looking for a light read, don't bother. This book takes work and requires empathy. The point of reading this isn't to be spoon-fed a story, but to imagine how you'd feel in the characters' place. It's not always comfortable, but is an incredibly rewarding experience.

c
cheriemoses
Aug 27, 2015

This was and extremely well written novel. Yes it is long. But it has a very subtle shift in every story portion that is developed. This appears to be the type of book a mature writer would create. It takes a lifetime to learn how to write like this. It is worth the time and effort.

w
Wong_Anne
Jun 09, 2015

I was really looking forward to this but it left me a bit deflated. Apparently Amy Tan has a photo of her grandmother in a particular style of dress. She learned that photos at that time were rare and the clothing was typically worn by a courtesan – and thus began the story. However well it was written, it seemed to rely too much on coincidence. The premise sounded just so good. Hesitantly recommended.

w
writermala
May 19, 2015

For the first few pages of this book I thought of it as Kama Sutra meets Harlequin. Then the real story emerged and I recognized it for the epic that it was. The story speaks of various forms of love in the lives of Lulu, Violet, and Flora and by the time I reached the last page I couldn't keep the tears from flowing.
A really powerful book which talks about a delicate subject - describing the lives of courtesans in early twentieth century Shanghai - and the love that survives in this atmosphere. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone.

e
evensenann
Mar 16, 2015

I think this book needed heavy editing for length. The story was interesting enough but could have been told in many fewer pages which would have made it a better read.

c
cjoanie
Jan 24, 2015

Well. I have read other A Tan books and have enjoyed them. I enjoyed this one. But, I was very interested to read the comments of others. I too, skipped along, not bored exactly but waiting for something to unfold. I wasn't "offended" as some others were by the content, it all seems/ed plausible given the times. Explicit, yes, pornographic... bit harsh. Basically, the book wasn't as good as I had hopedbut certainly had entertainment value for lack of another word. Don't regret the time spent reading it.

t
tenj
Dec 17, 2014

I feel like everyone wanted this to be the Chinese version of Memoirs of a Geisha. This book, however, is more. It's rougher, softer, scarier, deeper, truer, and harder to ignore. The difference lies in the fact that the author is a woman, and one who's own lineage contains stories similar to the ones written. The author of Memoirs...was a white male who more or less stole the words.

Yes, there are painfully descriptive bedroom scenes (and a lot of them). There are exceedingly grotesque realities and a new but familiar heartache at every turn. Nothing is really off limits. Tan's honesty alone is alienating and enough to justify the criticism. It is just plain uncomfortable. It made me wince and I literally passed out during one part. I get why some people would put this down halfway through. I did not, and I don't condemn it in length, subject, taste, or result.

Tan wrote it in such a way that I felt like she was telling me a secret. Because of detailed and taboo subject matter, she instantly makes her readers part of an inner circle. You feel like she's not sharing this with just anyone, but with someone fated to hear it. So I became committed, and in doing so I was able to feel the confusion, desperation, shock, resignation, and indulgent joy of these lives. If I could just get past one more painful page, I might be rewarded with a better fate. I enjoyed the floral themes, the ties of women to one another, and the breathlessness caused by highs and lows of love and tragedy.

I want to go around recommending this book to everyone, but it is just too pungent to do so. I can only speak for myself. For me, there are no subjects more dear than motherhood and history. I'll continue to eat up any such tales Amy Tan churns out regarding the two with so much enthusiasm, you'd think I was being paid to fake it.

k
kkelly00
Aug 30, 2014

Story of 3 generations of Chinese/American women in China who disconnect from their mothers in various ways and make their own lives. Central parts of their lives are a high-class brothel and wealthy men who befriend them.

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kaliko
Feb 08, 2014

"I was chasing after happiness, that false salvation, all the way to a desolate place. I might not find it. And if I did, it might simply be the illusion I had created in my mind, and if I held onto it as real, I would exist only as part of that illusion."

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