The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement

Book - 2013
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Shanghai, 1912. Violet Minturn is the daughter of the American madam of the city's most exclusive courtesan house. When political upheaval separates Violet from her mother, she is forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese, half-American, Violet grapples with her place in the worlds of East and West, until she merges her two identities to become a shrewd courtesan, though privately she still struggles to understand who she is. San Francisco, 1897. Violet's mother chooses a disastrous course as a sixteen-year-old, following a Chinese painter to Shanghai, where she finds herself shocked by her lover's adherence to Chinese traditions. Fueled by betrayals, both women refuse to submit to fate, persisting in their quests to recover what was taken from them: respect; a secure future; and love, from their parents, husbands, and children.
Publisher: New York : Ecco, 2013
ISBN: 9780062107312
Characteristics: xiv, 589 p. ; 24 cm


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Aug 01, 2019

I adore Amy Tan....but not this book. Sadly I only made it about 1/4 way before I threw in the towel. The story didn't catch my attention, disappointed..not all up to par with her other books in my opinion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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