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.

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