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The Valley of Amazement

Written by: Amy Tan
Narrated by: Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, Amy Tan
Length: 24 hrs and 51 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan brings us her latest novel: a sweeping, 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 privileged 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 in a cruel act of chicanery and forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese and half-American, Violet grapples with her place in the worlds of East and West - until she is able to merge her two halves, empowering her to become a shrewd courtesan who excels in the business of seduction and illusion, though she still struggles to understand who she is.

Back in 1897 San Francisco, Violet's mother, Lucia, chooses a disastrous course as a sixteen-year-old, when her infatuation with a Chinese painter compels her to leave her home for Shanghai. Shocked by her lover's adherence to Chinese traditions, she is unable to change him, despite her unending American ingenuity.

Fueled by betrayals, both women refuse to submit to fate and societal expectations, persisting in their quests to recover what was taken from them: respect; a secure future; and, most poignantly, love from their parents, lovers, and children. To reclaim their lives, they take separate journeys - to a backwater hamlet in China, the wealthy environs of the Hudson River Valley, and, ultimately, the unknown areas of their hearts, where they discover what remains after their many failings to love and be loved. Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement transports listeners from the collapse of China's last imperial dynasty to the beginning of the Republic and recaptures the lost world of old Shanghai through the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreigners living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II. A deeply evocative narrative of the profound connections between mothers and daughters, imbued with Tan's characteristic insight and humor, The Valley of Amazement conjures a story of inherited trauma, desire and deception, and the power and obstinacy of love.

©2013 Amy Tan (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book, and loved the narration

I *almost* didn’t buy this book because another person who reviewed it said it was depressing and violent. Not so. It is a story of inter generational women living in China and America in the early 1900s, and it’s about courtesans. Does it contain violence against women? Yes. Is that the whole book? No. It’s a beautifully told story that revolves around mother-daughter relationships. I loved it. Very well narrated, as well.

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not amy tan's usual

I usually like Amy Tan, but could not get through this book. It is about a courtesan, but goes into a lot of graphic sexual detail, which I really did not appreciate. This just wasn't my kind of book, so I could not finish it as I felt 'sick' just listening to this.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • M. Krull
  • 2015-01-28

Amy Tan Does It Again

I have read several books by Amy Tan and have enjoyed them all. Her writing brings to life the characters she writes about, as well as the settings where the events take place. Some readers may be put off by the descriptions of life in the courtesan houses, but their existence is historically documented, and the experiences of the women and girls who worked in the houses were not imaginary.

The narration was well done and held my interest throughout the story. If you are a fan of Amy Tan, don't skip this because of some negative reviews. It is well worth reading.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kristi R.
  • 2014-01-02

Life in a Courtesan house.

Where does The Valley of Amazement rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I would say about the middle. It kept me interested and was beautifully told but parts seemed to lag and some times I felt like, can't these women ever get a break in life?

Who was your favorite character and why?

Violet who is the main character of the story. She grows up in a courtesan house and then through a vicious trick is separated from her mother and sold into another house as a virgin courtesan when quite young. Her story to find love and create a life for herself is amazing.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

Asian characters with Asian narrators. Perfect!

Who was the most memorable character of The Valley of Amazement and why?

Magic Gourd a courtesan who mothers Violet when she is separated from her mother is a wonderful person who shines throughout the book. Just loved her!

Any additional comments?

This is a long book, I wasn't that interested in all the training for a courtesan house, but I understand it was part of the story. I wish it could have been a happier story, but when you think about it, sex workers lives are not very happy, so this was true to life.

32 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela J
  • 2013-11-25

Just could NOT get past the ugliness

I don't always have to have happy endings and triumphs, but I do need to have characters I care about (whether good or bad). This was just gruesomeness from three areas: a meandering unfocused plot, really poor narration (that was probably intended to follow the dour nature of the story), and savage assaults on women and children. I am an Amy Tan fan and stuck with this far longer than I would had it been any other author, but ultimately this had very little redemption. I cannot justify recommending this to someone other than people with a strong stomach and a desperate need to say they've read all of Tan's works. Very disappointing.

75 people found this helpful

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  • MeanStreaks
  • 2013-11-07

Classic Amy Tan

If you could sum up The Valley of Amazement in three words, what would they be?

Exotic. Entertaining. Consuming. -- Amy Tan's gift for exposing and explaining human nature burns brightly in this book. As an American, I love reading these books to discover more about Chinese culture. Realizing how much we have in common, and how different our cultures are is always a treat, and an education. Amy's descriptions of even the most minute detail or feeling is artfully crafted with the main character, Violet. I always feel like a fly on the wall and can see the rooms these characters sit in as I glide through each pages. If you've never read an Amy Tan novel, you have truly missed out on a masterwork.

32 people found this helpful

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  • Skip Galt
  • 2014-11-01

yes. everyone does want to know they are loved.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Excellent book making great use of creative chronology.

What did you like best about this story?

Aye yo!

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration of this book was superb. It had so many different language and subtle culture shifts that the narrators seemed to express perfectly.

If you could take any character from The Valley of Amazement out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Wait, is this a solicitation for a cortizan?

Any additional comments?

Aye yo! Does it really take 24 hours of audio to express the sentiment that all of us want to be loved and it is our greatest fear that we are not?

4 people found this helpful

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  • Serena
  • 2015-02-01

So awesome

I'm a reader so I was skeptical that I could listen to a book and enjoy it. The narration pulled me in and I couldn't wait each day to get in my car for my commute with Amy Tan.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Katherine
  • 2014-04-12

This novel should come with trigger alerts

My problem with this book is that, while it seems to be about strong, resilient women, it's really a relentless and unsparing description of the experiences of women who have to choose between starvation and a life of being raped in exchange for cash and gifts. Certainly, there are still millions of girls sold into sexual slavery, and maybe it's our duty to acknowledge this, but 25 hours of it? I feel blindsided, like I bought a novel and got a diatribe. Moments of relief and humor, intimations of "courtship," and a ragged story line do not make this an engaging read. Amy Tan's editor was clearly too intimidated to insist on the reworking that might have made this book even tolerable.

It was generally tedious listening, occasionally droll, often unremittingly dull, and at times excruciatingly painful. Never fun. Never.

34 people found this helpful

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  • Janet
  • 2013-11-15

Not as expected

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Amy Tan has been a favorite over the years for her colorful, misguided characters, the interplay between generations of women, the triumph over pain and abuse.

This book has the abuse and the misguided, but everything is so flat that I simply wanted to plug my ears with cotton and not hear anything for a while. Repetition abounds, wondering about whether the mother betrayed her daughter. How could a writer with Tan's skills come up with something on a topic like this and have it be so hopelessly boring?

What do you think your next listen will be?

Diane Setterfield, Bellman & Black

Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

okay

What character would you cut from The Valley of Amazement?

all of them

26 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean
  • 2013-11-21

Tan is a great storyteller

Amy Tan’s new book is narrated by seven year old Violet Minturn. Violet is an American girl born in Shanghai, of an American mother and Chinese father, but she American in manner and speech, who can also speak Chinese. Her Mother Lulu is the only white woman who owns a first-class courtesan house in 1905 Shanghai. She caters to both the western client and the wealthy Chinese. Violet learns early that her Mother‘s profession is not about sex but illusion. Tan depicts Lulu as an acute business woman able to take advantage of business opportunities in Shanghai. The story’s plot twist and turns, a life changing betrayal has Violet sold off to a courtesan house and Lulu on her way to San Francisco thinking Violet is dead. The story ranges from 1900 to 1939 during the turbulent times of World War One, the 1918 flu pandemic to the rise of Chian Kai-Shek and the Chinese Communist party to the brink of World War II, through all this Tan weaves the story of Lulu and Violet. Tan’s great descriptions and twisty plot makes for a book that is hard to put down. Three women narrate the book Nancy Wo, Joyce Bean and Amy tan.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Eva Gannon
  • 2013-12-22

A Disappointing Bodice Ripper

It was hard to read this book as anything other than a romance, bodice ripper type of novel. It certainly isn't up to the standards of Tan's previous works. Viewing it as a well written potboiler (is that a non sequitur?) allowed me to keep reading. Had I been looking for meaning, I would have put it down unfinished.

The characters are almost caricatures, who learn little if anything, and what they learn is predictable. Even the main characters aren't particularly likable, and it's hard to identify with them.

The plot is predictable, and long passages are just boring. This may be because it's larded with minutiae; some description is necessary, but Tan takes it to ridiculous, and somewhat dull, levels.

There are many passages where the reader can just skim through at a good clip, without losing anything necessary for comprehension.

The use of three narrators saves the book and weighted in the balance when I was deciding to stop reading or not. The breathe life into the characters, and add interest.

Overall, I don't recommend the book. I bought the companion Kindle,and without it, would probably not have finished the book. I did, but was glad to be done with it.

18 people found this helpful