Valley of Amazement (Tan)

The Valley of Amazement 
Amy Tan, 2013
HarperCollins
608 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062107312



Summary
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 readers 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. (From the publisher.)

Visit the author's website.



Author Bio
Also named—En-Mai Tan
Birth—February 15, 1952
Where—Oakland, California, USA
Education—B.A., M.A., San Jose State University
Currently—San Francisco, California and New York, NY


Amy Tan is a Chinese-American writer, many of whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989) brought her fame and has remained one of her most popular works. It was adapted to film in 1993.

Tan has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter's Daughter, and a collection of non-fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings. Her most recent book, Saving Fish From Drowning, explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition in the jungles of Burma.

In addition, Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS. She has also appeared on PBS in a short spot encouraging children to write.

Tan's work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. She has a master's degree in linguistics from San Jose University and has also worked as a language specialist to programs serving children with developmental disabilities.

She resides in Sausalito, California with her husband, Louis DeMattei, a lawyer who she met on a blind date and married in 1974.

Tan is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band consisting of published writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening, Dave Barry and Stephen King, among others. (Adapted from Wikipedia and the publisher.)



Book Reviews
The epic story follows three generations of women pulled apart by outside forces. The main focus is Violet, once a virgin courtesan in one of the most reputable houses in Shanghai, who faces a series of crippling setbacks.... In a series of flashbacks toward the book’s end, Violet’s American mother, Lulu, is revealed to have suffered a similar and equally disturbing fate two decades earlier. The choice to cram the truth... into the last 150 pages makes the story unnecessarily confusing. Nonetheless, Tan’s mastery of the lavish world of courtesans and Chinese customs continues to transport.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) This utterly engrossing novel is highly recommended to all readers who appreciate an author’s ability to transport them to a new world they will not forget. As a plus, this reviewer sensed the harbinger of a sequel by the last page.
Library Journal


(Starred review.)  Tan’s prodigious, sumptuously descriptive, historically grounded, sexually candid, and elaborately plotted novel counters violence, exploitation, betrayal, and tragic cultural divides with beauty, wit, and transcendent friendship between women.
Booklist


Tan is a skilled storyteller, capable of working her way into and out of most fictional problems, but....Tan's story sometimes suffers from longueurs*, but the occasional breathless, steamy scene evens the score: "He lifted my hips and my head soared and I lost all my senses except for the one that bound us and could not be pulled apart." A satisfyingly complete, expertly paced yarn.
(*boring parts)
Kirkus Reviews



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