New York Times bestseller The Valley of Amazement is an 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 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 and forced to become a “virgin courtesan.” Spanning more than forty years and two continents, Amy Tan’s newest novel maps the lives of three generations of women—and the mystery of an evocative painting known as “The Valley of Amazement.” Moving from the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty to the growth of anti-foreign sentiment and the inner workings of courtesan houses, The Valley of Amazement interweaves the story of Violet, a celebrated Shanghai courtesan on a quest for both love and identity, and her mother, Lucia, an American woman whose search for penance leads them to an unexpected reunion.
The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, legacies, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, reminiscent of the compelling territory Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, Tan conjures up a story of inherited trauma, desire, deception, and the power and stubbornness of love.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Amy Tan’s spellbinding new novel—her first since 2005’s Saving Fish from Drowning—unfurls against the backdrop of Shanghai in the early 20th century—a bustling metropolis where East and West mix and clash. Lulu Mintern is an American who runs one of the city’s finest courtesan houses. Her precocious daughter Violet spends her days spying on seductive encounters, vying for her mother’s attention, and trying to unravel the mysteries of her origin. The Valley of Amazement is primarily Violet’s story, and it bursts at the seams with heartbreak. Once again, Tan demonstrates her talent for conjuring unforgettable female characters who are as wily, bawdy, and brittle as they are sensitive, wise, and vulnerable. Like many daughters, Violet finds that her relationship with her mother is a source of profound pain. But it’s also the fierce, complicated bonds between women that keep her sane in the face of staggering adversity—and give her the strength to rewrite her destiny.
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.
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A window to a Mother's heart
What a great read, though at times some scenes were so emotional for me I had trouble continuing! A tale any mother can relate to and gain greater appreciation for her own children. Made me go and hug my daughters several times.