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The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement (2013)

by Amy Tan

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1,350758,969 (3.49)65
Violet Minturn, a half-Chinese/half-American courtesan who deals in seduction and illusion in Shanghai, struggles to find her place in the world, while her mother, Lucia, tries to make sense of the choices she has made and the men who have shaped her.

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I might have finished slogging through this had I not had several other library books which were becoming due. Then again, this isn't really my cup of tea, my being an elderly, repressed Calvinist and all. I made it through 36% of the book, or 336 pp.

So, we have a young American girl in China (Shanghai). Her mother, also American, runs the fanciest "house of pleasure" in Shanghai, the only one that caters both to rich Chinese and also to rich foreigners. From time to time, she, the mother that is, can get the two sets together for business chats. At other times the two sets hang out with their own set for partying. Then of course, there are first-class "courtesans" to woo and on which to lavish riches, some of which (the riches, that is) are "shared" with the mother.

Well, at some point, the mother goes off to America to reunite with her husband and the son who was taken from her at his birth. Somehow, the girl, Violet, gets kidnapped on the way to the boat and ends up in a different "pleasure palace". Well, after 300 pages of reading about life in Chinese "pleasure palaces" back a hundred years ago, I cried uncle. There are certain types of human depravity that do not attract me. This is one: rich old men using young girls as toys. Of course, we just elected a President who is no better than his Chinese peers from a century ago. Perhaps that has helped stigmatize the whole charade for me. Or perhaps it's just because I am, as I've said above, a repressed, elderly Calvinist. Whatever, I'm done.

I've read several other Amy Tan books and liked them well enough. I read her because I want a Chinese perspective so as better to understand the cultural context in which my son-in-law might have grown up. He is fully American, but his parents grew up in China. Anyway, I decided that whatever insight I might have received from this book wasn't worth wading through all the smut.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
It’s 1912. Violet is half-American, half-Chinese and growing up with only her American mother, Lulu, in Shainghai. Lulu runs a courtesan house, but is tricked when Violet is 14-years old; Violet is kidnapped while her mother heads to San Francisco to find her son.

I really liked this. A warning that there are some graphic scenes, though – sex, violence. The book certainly kept me wanting to read to find out what happened. It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with ups and downs. A small portion of the book told Lulu’s story; admittedly, at first, I didn’t think this was necessary, but it got more interesting as it went on, and it was nice to see the pieces come together as it continued. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 1, 2019 |
I'm 200 pages in and having a rough time becoming interested. The chapter about the "rules" of becoming a courtesan bored the hell out of me and skipped to the next chapter. 400 pages to go, hope it gets better.

I've read several of her books and loved them. This is a drudgery so far.

Now that I have finished this "drudgery " and shed a few tears along the way, I liked it a lot. It keep me up last night reading because I had to know, I was so caught up in the drama that it was unthinkable I could close with a bookmark.

This was her opus. A tad bit shy of 600 pages, it involved the lives of so many women, their love for 3ach other, their pitfalls, their ingenuity, their bravery, their fortitude.

I ended up liking it very much, despite some well needed editing. ( )
  Alphawoman | May 20, 2019 |
I read this book shortly after moving to China and I really enjoyed it. It gave me a look into one aspect of the nation's history that I hadn't encountered before in my other reads. ( )
  midkid88 | Dec 8, 2018 |
A really good book, the writing is compelling. But... the story is so.so.so sad. Unrelentingly sad. ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
In her first novel since 2005’s Saving Fish from Drowning, Tan again explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, control and submission, tradition and new beginnings. Jumping from bustling Shanghai to an isolated village in rural China to San Francisco at the turn of the 19th century, 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: the death of her first husband from Spanish influenza, a second marriage to an abusive scam artist, and the abduction of her infant daughter, Flora. 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 behind Lulu’s sexually promiscuous adolescence in San Francisco, her life as a madam in Shanghai, and Violet’s reunion with a grown Flora 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.
In her first novel in eight years, Amy Tan (Saving Fish From Drowning; The Joy Luck Club) spins a tale that propels us into the lives of three generations of women on both sides of the Pacific. At its vortex is half-Chinese and half-American Violet, an infinitely charismatic Shanghai courtesan who despite her material prosperity and professional success struggles with her identity, her past, and the possibility of real love. Tan's portrait of Violet's dominant, yet emotionally wounded mother Lucia possesses a poignancy that threads the novel together into a piece
added by shieldwolf | editBarnes & Noble (Nov 15, 2013)
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Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give away, substances mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd soul, eludes not,
One's-self, must never give way - that is the final substance - that out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last finally remains?
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure?
Walt Whitman, "Quicksand Years"
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For Kathi Kamen Goldmark abd Zheng Cao, kindred spirits
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When I was seven, I knew exactly who I was: a thoroughly American girl in race, mannerism and speech, whose mother, Lulu Minturn, was the only white woman who owned a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai.
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n the first part of the story, Violet tells the story of growing up in Hidden Jade Path, a courtesan house in Shanghai that is run by her mother, an American woman named Lulu Minturn. Violet grows up unaware of her father and unsure of her mother's feelings for her.

When the Qing dynasty falls in 1912, mother and daughter are separated and the young girl is sold to a rivaling courtesan house, where she is educated by an older girl, Magic Gourd, formerly of her mother's house. The two form a lifelong relationship through Violet's marriages to former clients. Her first marriage results in a child, Flora, who is taken from Violet as a result of an unlawful marriage.

The second part of the story is told by the mother, who thinks the daughter is dead. She recalls her upbringing by remote parents in the US, her runaway with an unknown Chinese painter, and her struggle to be accepted as the mother of their two children.

Violet is eventually reunited with her mother, and eventually also her daughter Flora.
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