Monday, 17 November 2014

The Valley of Amazement
by Amy Tan
Rating:  5/5
Pages: 589
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9780007476480

Summary (via Goodreads)

In fin de siecle Shanghai, Violet Minturn grows up at Hidden Jade Path, the city's most exclusive courtesan house. But when revolution comes, she is separated from her mother and forced to become a 'virgin courtesan.' Both Chinese and American, Violet moves between these cultural worlds, becoming a shrewd businesswoman who deals in seduction and illusion. But her successes belie her private turmoil.

Review (Warning Spoilers!!)

I have to admit, it is rare for me nowadays to find a book that truly leaves me guessing right up until the end page about what will happen. And yet in The Valley of Amazement I found that not only did I not want to put the book down, but I fell in love with the characters, feeling their suffering, joy and betrayals. Told mainly from the main character Violets point of view I found myself experiencing Shanghai in a new way, her way. I became absorbed in the less known world of courtesans and rich men and fine silks and jewellery that in the early 1900s flooded the streets of Shanghai.

Amy Tan has created a raunchy fairy-tale full of love, sex, betrayal and even bad guys =).

Throughout the book Violet overcomes immense struggles and finds her own inner strength  that enables her to keep going, proving to everyone, including herself, that she can achieve everything she wants, a true heroine. In every fairy-tale the hero needs the wise and humorous sidekick and this role is filled by Magic Gourd, a former friend turned sister to Violet who helps and guides her.

For me there was one character who frustrated me, Lu Shing. Now I don't want to go into this too much as you really need to read this for yourself, but all I will say is that in the best possible way, this character was one I hoped from the very beginning of his introduction that he would be responsible and stand up for Violet, only like Violet I was disappointed by him again and again. through this character Amy Tan has provided a deep understanding of what it is to be the eldest son in a traditional Chinese home with all the weight and responsibility this brought. despite my knowledge and appreciation of the dilemma this must cause, I find that like Violet, I still hope for the best.

I don't want to keep writing as I will no doubt start giving too much away. So I will end this review with this, my only criticism with this book is that it is currently not continued by a sequel and I hope one day this will happen. I feel that for me I have not read enough about Violet and her family. having said this I feel the ending I beautiful and concludes the story well for the point at which it is at, with hope and promise and love.

Read this book, you will not be disappointed.

The Bonesetters Daughter
by Amy Tan
Rating:  4/5


Pages: 339
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 2004
ISBN: 9780006550433

Summary (via Goodreads)

Ruth Young and her widowed mother, LuLing, have always had a tumultuous relationship. Now, before she succumbs to forgetfulness, LuLing gives Ruth some of her writings, which reveal a side of LuLing that Ruth has never known. . . .
In a remote mountain village where ghosts and tradition rule, LuLing grows up in the care of her mute Precious Auntie as the family endures a curse laid upon a relative known as the bonesetter. When headstrong LuLing rejects the marriage proposal of the coffinmaker, a shocking series of events are set in motion-all of which lead back to Ruth and LuLing in modern San Francisco. The truth that Ruth learns from her mother's past will forever change her perception of family, love, and forgiveness.


How much do we listen to our parents? How much do we value their input in our lives, their advice? And, more importantly, how would we feel if that presence was taken from us, forever?

I have read similar values like this in the previous book I have reviewed, The Joy Luck Club, but I found the way in which this story evolves and absorbs the reader in much more satisfying.

The story follows Ruth, a successful modern woman who is forever having to deal with her eccentric and overbearing mother, LuLing, a burden she has resented since childhood. However, gradually she notices her mother is acting oddly, and then when the worst is confirmed, she starts to notice her mother more and more and begins to wonder if there is in fact method to the madness after all.

Overall, this book shows a charming a addictive story about two generations of women from several families who have each in turn their own story to tell. At times I found myself sympathising with them, noticing similarities between certain moments and myself, but even in the characters I felt I could not relate to I still enjoyed the way in which Tan allows the story to unfold.

A must read book!

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
Rating:  3/5


Pages: 352
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 9780749399573

Summary (via Goodreads)

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives - until their own inner crises reveal how much they've unknowingly inherited of their mothers' pasts.


I have never read one of Amy Tan's books previously and therefore was excited as to what kind of writer she would be. I wasn't disappointed. The Joy Luck Club tells the story of four women and their daughters and the lives and secrets and misunderstandings that naturally occur throughout domestic life.

Ever heard the saying "Mother knows best"? Well this book redefines that. Suyuan Woo is a women pulled down by the weight of her secrets, secrets that she wants to tell her daughter but is worried about doing would her daughter react? However it is only when it is too late that the truth surfaces and June Woo is faced with a dilemma - should she go back to China, her mother's homeland and accomplish what her mother was never able to?

Overall the book is dedicated to motherly love and the hardships that Chinese mothers, and no doubt many others, faced after WW2 in terms of teaching their modern, rebellious daughters life lessons.

I have to admit, at points I did get a bit confused over which storyline was which character, but I think that was more my error than the books and it didn't last long. In general I enjoyed reading this book and have already purchased more from Amy Tan to sample more of her writing. The characters, despite being of a different time and cultural background to myself, I felt I was able to sympathise with, something that further submerged me into the book. Of all the characters, June is my favourite and I almost wish that there was more about her in the book, maybe even a sequel to continue the story from where it finished in the book.

Overall verdict....enjoyable, relatable, fun and loveable.