Review: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
HarperCollins Publisher Ltd., 2013

Description (from

Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement is 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 village.

Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal episodes in history: from 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 evocative 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.

My Review (4 Stars: Liked it A Lot!)

Even though, at times, author Amy Tan’s description of life as courtesan in Shanghai during the early 1900’s, seemed like too much information (TMI), I must admit, I still enjoyed the story.

The story spans from, approximately, 1897 through 1939, and includes four generations. It is not told in exact chronological order.  The main character, Violet, through no fault of her own and because of the choices she makes, suffers from one bad experience after another.

Violet’s mother Lucertia (LuLu) was an American living in Shanghai.  Given the marriage culture concerning foreigners, her prospects for a happy future were dim.

There are parallels drawn between Violet and her mother. Both LuLu and Violet were mistreated by the men they were involved with.  Their actions also, unintentionally, adversely affected their children.  While reading, you can not help, but wish they did not make their mistakes.  However, if not for their mistakes, there would be no story.

According to Amy Tan, she wrote this novel over the course of eight years.  Her characters are well developed and she infuses history into the story very well.

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