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The Valley of Amazement Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 5, 2013
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But if I am to be honest here, even at the risk of being unpopular among my fellow reviewers who are also fans of Amy Tan, I am afraid I must take the middle road in my evaluation of it. Let me cut to the chase - I found this novel less than amazing. At best I would say it is generic Amy Tan.
Even though parts of the book are really quite good, perhaps even worthy of a 5-star assessment, for several reasons the book as a whole could not sustain five stars. Allow me to explain.
VALLEY is the oft-told Amy Tan tale of strained mother-daughter relationships for which she is highly acclaimed and with which she typically builds her narrative architecture. I found that I have grown weary of it.
The plotting of this story as well as its array of characters are all rendered in a much too cozy fashion. The sprawling plot meanders around the high-end courtesan houses of Shanghai during the early 1900's. The courtesans were known as flower girls who were trained from a young and tender age to entertain male clients and provide sexual services including the giving up of their highly prized virginity.Read more ›
It is a testament to Tan's writing that I finished this book. I do not like spending so much time with characters I do not like or respect. Violet Minturn, the daughter of a famed American courtesan mistress in Shanghi, is someone I didn't enjoy. A spoiled brat would be a good description. Violet is half American, half Chinese, a fact that she doesn't discover until she's 8 or 9. She creeps around the house spying on all the courtesans at work. Nothing her mother does is good enough and Violet never feels loved.
Violet's mother decides to return to San Francisco and is tricked into leaving Violet behind. Word is sent to her that Violet has died. Violet is sold into another courtsesan house as a virgin and is trained to take up the profession. Even though she knows her mother was tricked in leaving her behind and that her mother believes her dead, she is outraged her mother doesn't come back for her. Her unhappiness colors every thing.
She gets involved in a relationship with an American and participates in a counterfeit identification that leads to horrendous results. I can not fathom why she does so and it is never explained. She is outraged, once again, that her duplicity is discovered. This character never seems to mature or make adult, well thought decisions. It is like she quit growing at 14.
The book is overly long. There's so much discussion of furnishings and clothes that I tended to nod off. I think it could have been edited by at least 100 pages and been a better story. I can see why it took her 8 years to write it as it is so detailed. I find that as an author gets more famous that there is less editing leading to really uneven stories.
Still I read it.Read more ›
I was disappointed. At the risk of publicizing my oversentimentality, I also felt betrayed. I pre-ordered the novel and waited patiently, checking my mailbox every afternoon. And though I could only read a few pages a day because of my graduate program, I kept thinking - hoping, certainly - the story would pick up, a redeeming epiphany would alter the book's tone, something would make the characters more likable, more human, more compassionate. I waited for the language to become less tedious, the grimy details of Shanghai less depressing, the flower/sex references less tacky. Like the patrons of these courtesan houses, I spent the whole novel waiting at the cusp of this valley and searching for what I desired most. But I never found it. Just like the patrons, I found illusions, cheap embellishments, shoddy furniture, and cheap, cheap, cheap sex.
At Tan's defense, I get it. Sex sells. "Fifty Shades" is a testament to that, among so many other empty "pieces of literature" that will never stand in the same light as the classics, the unrecognized talents, the Nobel Laureates, the Pulitzer Prize winners. True literary minds, true English enthusiasts, scoff at works like these - they shame us, embarrass us. To use Tan's own terminology, good literature - true, honest literature - is like a first wife. And cheap, repetitive sex scenes, empty characters, and stale plot - these are all slave girls. I am sad to admit that I finally saw the day I'd scoff at an author I idolized and admired most.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well-written and thought provoking. Gives insight into areas most of us know nothing about.Published 1 day ago by Karen J. Morgan
Not the Amy Tan that I expected - this story is a long one and could easily have been told at least 150 pages less. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Alison Ferry
Well written, thoroughly investigated for authenticity. Good story, but sometimes a bit more history/background than is necessary.Published 1 day ago by Marsha Lindeken
I read this for book the book club at my job. I am not usually a big fan of historical fiction. Set mostly in the backdrop of Shanghai China in the late 1800's to early 1920's. Read morePublished 4 days ago by annmmar
I liked reading about the Eastern and western traditions in the 1800 and early 1900 and the way the women were treated and had to survive the treatment of man!Published 5 days ago by raya galibov
Never thought Any Tan's book would merit only two stars but this was a tedious book where the narrative never took one to that valley of amazement which a good book is supposed to... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Kindle Customer