Amy Tan’s newest novel, The Valley of Amazement, is captivating and sophisticated.
The beauty of this book – like The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter – is its naturally flowing narrative and ability to engage and transport the reader into 1900s Shanghai, the world of the courtesan, and Chinese culture. In many ways, the story feels like the natural extension of Tan’s China series, and is everything fans of it could hope for: a traditional romantic tale that explores insightful territories.
From the off, the story of a young virgin courtesan is lush, stylish and a feast for the heart and soul as Tan fills her tale with lavish images that constantly amaze the senses with eroticism and sensuality. The Chinese-American author makes the exotic accessible without spoiling a world of carefully guarded wonder.
The heroine is named Violet. From the age of seven, Violet knew she was a thoroughly American girl in race, manners and speech, whose mother, Lulu Minturn, was the only woman who owned a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai. However, the ladies working at the house were considered more than mere prostitutes; they were elegant, seductively coy, tantalisingly elusive, and skilled in the recitation of poems.
Alas, Violet’s world falls apart when her mother falls for an unscrupulous man and the young girl is sold into a less salubrious house as a working girl. From that moment, this becomes a tale of survival, a search for self and maternal love.
Tan took eight years to write the book, and not a word is wasted in this 600-page evocative spellbinder.
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