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.
Hidden Jade Path
When I was seven, I knew 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.
My mother named me Violet after a tiny flower she loved as a girl growing up in San Francisco, a city I have seen only in postcards. I grew to hate my name. The courtesans pronounced it like the Shanghainese word vyau-lawhat you said when you wanted to get rid of something. "Vyau-la! Vyau-la!" greeted me everywhere.
My mother took a Chinese name, Lulu Mimi, which sounded like her American one, and her courtesan house was then known as the House of Lulu Mimi. Her Western clients knew it by the English translation of the characters in her name: Hidden Jade Path. There were no other first-class courtesan houses that catered to both Chinese and Western clients, many of whom were among the wealthiest in foreign ...
Written in flowing prose that sweeps the reader down an adventurous path from late nineteenth century America to the cusp of World War II in China, this is a portrayal of strong women you will not soon forget. The Valley of Amazement is well worth the long wait.
(Reviewed by Judi Sauerbrey).
Full Review (1142 words).
No doubt about it. There is something about sex.
In Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement, sex is used as an instrument of power by the women protagonists. As Little Violet begins her career as a courtesan, she is given this piece of advice: "Always remember, you are creating a world of romance and illusion...you must learn all the arts of enticement and maintain a balance of anticipation and reticence..."
Would that we could claim that balance in our fast-paced modern world! Sex lures us into movie houses and on to the Internet; it creates top picks on the New York Times bestseller list; it is the favorite marketing tool for a variety of products from lingerie to socket wrenches; and it is the basis for what has long been designated...
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