Amy Tan: The Valley of Amazement



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As its velvety green cover Soft to the touch And then Amy Tan s gold embossed name running across the coverThe title itself is alluring It sounds positive hopeful uplifting a little uirky But the book is tragic It s comedic It s a reflection on Amy Tan s own struggle and on the struggles of many other Asian women who ve felt shortchanged by society on the basis of their biological and ethnic inheritance What I enjoyed most was the historical context Shanghai in the 1900s the background of the revolution the geography Tan explores without sacrificing authenticityThe Valley of Amazement is about young Violet and follows her unfortunate misadventures as a gullible selfish courtesan But it s not just a window into that type of lifestyle The Valley of Amazement is about a lot of things Tan will steer you in so many different directions forcing you to see what you tried so hard to resist seeing But it s not shock value that makes this book impossible to put down It s the lessons Tan threads into the words that we are all products of hope and love that only with great loss comes great gain Don t call them prostitutesThat s the first rule of the Shanghai courtesans in Amy Tan s exhausting new novel The Valley of Amazement Just because these women provide sex in exchange for money they re not prostitutes so don t even think thatDeception and misperception are the stock in trade of the sex business and of this story too which stretches over four generations and thousands of miles The valley of The Valley of Amazement is very deep indeed an arduous journey of fraud idnapping and ritualized rapeIt has been almost 25 years since The Joy Luck Club launched Tan s career and this new novel explores some of the same themes of festering family secrets the conflicts between mothers and daughters and the sacrifices that women must make Most of the story which begins in 1905 is narrated by Violet whose early confidence is cruelly suashed When I was seven she begins I new exactly who I was a thoroughly American girl in race manners and speech whose mother Lulu Minturn was the only white woman who owned a first class courtesan house in Shanghai As it turns out Violet nows almost nothing about who she is or who her mother is but she s awfully well informed about what goes on in a courtesan house Lulu Minturn may earn a nice surplus by facilitating business deals between American and Chinese clients but she generates the bulk of her income by managing sex workers who come to her as young as 13 Everything about the courtesan experience is refined into a complex tradition of wheedling and enticement that s meant to disguise these meretricious transactions as courtship In Violet s clear eyed descriptions we see how clients pretend to woo her mother s employees plying them with gifts competing for their favors even begging for permission to stage mock weddingsTan doesn t let us forget that these women are at the top of the sex trade where they enjoy a level of financial and personal autonomy that common streetwalkers and even middle class Western women can t imagine One courtesan rebukes a client You don t need to pity us We live uite well she says We have our freedom unlike American women who cannot go anywhere without their husbands or old maid aunts But the graceful conventions the lovely clothes elegant dinners and genteel repartee can t hide the true nature of this business laid out in these pages in exuisite and slightly shocking detail Among the most disturbing practices that Tan portrays is the auctioning off of young virgins a process breathlessly covered in the Shanghai press the way the Times might cover an exciting sale at Sotheby sEven as Violet unveils this exotic world for us she s consumed with her own identity the discovery of her true self which becomes the story s central somewhat facile concern Her slightly Asian appearance begins to challenge her sense of who she really is and her mother s evasions about her father don t help put those suspicions to rest It s hard to trust a woman who sells affection professionallyThe novel is. The collapse of China's last imperial dynasty to the rise of the Republic the explosive growth of lucrative foreign trade and anti foreign sentiment to the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign Shanghailanders living in the International Settlement both erased by World War II A deeply evoca.

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Structured as a series of shattered promises a pattern that readers will notice long before Violet does In the first and most emotionally wrenching ordeal the narrator is sold off as a virgin courtesan plunging her into the very world of sexual competition and abuse that she observed so carefully under her mother s tutelage Fate once made you American Fate took it away a fellow courtesan tells her You are a flower that will be plucked over and over again You are now at the bottom of society Still a teenager Violet must cultivate her own clients use her beauty and her intelligence to survive and secure the Four Necessities of life jewelry furniture a stipend and retirement Forget about love But don t forget about sex There s a lot of it in The Valley of Amazement most of it contractual some of it violent a little of it romantic and all of it slightly odd sounding At one point Violet tells us He flayed against me until our bodies were slapping and he took me into the typhoon and geologic disaster I didn t Black Boy know whether to call Dr Ruth or the Red CrossBut amid all the coupling Violet s adventures roll on carrying her to great success and bitter defeat in an ever expanding compendium of personal disasters plagues ghosts double crosses and losses at the hands of lovers gangsters lawyers and relatives Her life as an undocumented biracial woman leaves 15 sociocultural soft porn and soap opera stars 2015 Most Disappointing Read tie I want to start off by saying I read two books by Amy Tan in my twenties that I liked very much These were the Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God s Wife They were interesting and about complicated relationships but written in an accessible and intelligent wayThis current book took eight years to write and I want to say it was just an awful reading experience Eight years to write this tortuous bookThe book started off middling and ended in a verbiage of overwrought nonsenseI will start off with what was very good The backdrop was expertly described the architecture the fashions and the understanding of the sociocultural dynamics of Shanghai in the late 1800s and early 1900s Ms Tan was able to impart where different groups of people courtesans wives servants businessmen Chinese European and Mixed race fit with each other and what was expected This is whatept me reading If it weren t for the very good backdrop the book would have been completely unbearableThis was a work of fiction but both characters and plot were overwrought histrionic flat and dullThe repetitiveness of the writing the staleness of the storylines and the lack of psychological uniformity of the character sketches was uite simply unbelievable I found it amazing how one book could be crass and dull at the same time This was like one very long television mini series from the 1980s that should just never have happenedThe title was a huge misnomer The Valley of Amazement I never once felt even close to this Stunned and disbelieving was like itI decided to come up with some other titles that may have been applicable The Valley of Vexation The Lakes of Lasciviousness and Lewdness The Mountain of Mediocrity or my personal favorite The Ocean of Omigosh mstan ohmigosh whathappenedLike I said I am not giving up on Ms Tan as I have very much enjoyed and admired previous novels The Story behind the Story Amy Tan s inspiration for The Valley of Amazement originated at a visit to The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco where she stumbled upon an academic book with a BW photo of courtesans a class of women who were influential in introducing Western popular culture to Shanghai read between those words The 1910 photo was captioned The Ten Beauties of Shanghai She was stunned these women were wearing clothing specific to the trade identical to those in her favorite photo of her grandmotherShe later found out that no women other than courtesans went to Western photo studios My grandmother s photo had been taken in just such a place Her grandmother was twenty one in 1910 Tan s imaginings of what it would have been like for her grandmother had she been a co. Tive narrative about the profound connections between mothers and daughters The Valley of Amazement returns readers to the compelling territory of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club With her characteristic insight and humor she conjures a story of inherited trauma desire and deception and the power and stubbornness of love.

Amy Tan s derivative new novel covers the familiar themes she has recycled from her previous novels about mother daughter relationships Spanning 50 years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the saga takes place largely in the courtesan houses of Shanghai when vast changes were occurring during the early establishment of the Republic of China Told in the first person by a daughter from each generation but mostly from one named Violet the reader is taken on an epic journey of love illusion betrayal abandonment and redemption Tan doesn t break any new ground here Arthur Golden s 1997 MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA about Japan s geisha houses was written lyrically and subtly and used a very similar framing device Tan didn t create any original characters nor did she introduce a fresh premise However her pacing is astute and her flourishes are vividTan s beach read would accurately be listed under historical romance and its inelegant prose and broad characters failed to hit any visceral and emotional registers with me Violet precocious half Chinesehalf American daughter of Lulu a beautiful American woman who runs a prestigious courtesan house in Shanghai is separated from her mother by trickery As Lulu sails sadly away to America Violet is forced to begin her life as a courtesan at the age of fourteen but in a second class establishment Her only ally is her attendant Magic Gourd who serves as a mother figure and protectorViolet learns all the details of the life of a courtesan such as storytelling zither mastering sartorial nuance conversational alacrity and most importantly the art of seduction These women are referred to as flowers and at fifteen are bought by the highest bidder in a defloration ceremony to lose their virginity By their late 20 s their bloom is fading and they are too old to compete against their younger counterpartsThe courtesans are warned against the illusion of love and the fantasy of marriage at the most they can hope to run their own courtesan house someday Of course the passionate Violet periodically succumbs to her desires and suffers disappointment at every twist and turn as well as episodes of bliss It is terribly contrived but also colorful and despite predictability I found myself turning the pages to see what would happen next Tan creates so many obstacles for her characters that I actually got involved in the storyteller s weave Unfortunately she left no room for authenticity and the great passions felt expository while the erotic scenes were awkward and lackluster It sounded a lot like And then she And then she And then she Scenes that were supposed to be horrifying fell flat in the telling subverting Tan s intentions to grip the reader The title of the book refers to a painting that appears throughout the narrative symbolizing clarity and illusion beauty and eternity It captures many moments many emotionshope love and purity I see in it immortality neither beginning nor end It seems to be saying all moments are immortal and will never disappear nor will peace in the valley or the strength of mountains or the openness of the sky This motif of the painting is rendered with lovely abstraction and brush strokes yet ironically the plot of the story is like paint by number Tan s novel is like a composition on a canvas but you are disappointed by the lack of contour and occasion for personal translation Everything is right up front with no mystery Like the art that graces most office buildings it is familiar and undemanding Occasionally it darts out with colorful swirls I read Amy Tan s Joy Luck Club in a high school English class While I remember little of the specific details I do recall the mother daughter themes that really resonated with me family lineage and the internal identity conflicts that come with being an Asian American the search for self affirmation through love and finding one s place in the family community and worldI got a hold of an advance copy of The Valley of Amazement from the publisher through a media publishing company I worked for Admittedly what initially attracted me to it A sweeping evocative epic of two women's intertwined fates and their search for identity that moves from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese villageSpanning than forty years and two continents The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal episodes in history from.

Amy Tan Chinese 譚恩美; pinyin Tán Ēnměi; born February 19 1952 is an American writer whose works explore mother daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American In 1993 Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work The Joy Luck Club became a commercially successful filmShe has written several other books including The Kitchen God's Wife The Hun